Moment Nasa reacts to successful Ingenuity flight

Henrietta Strickland
April 19, 2021

"Now, 117 years after the Wright brothers succeeded in making the first flight on our planet, NASA's Ingenuity helicopter has succeeded in performing this wonderful feat on another world", said NASA Associate Administrator for Science Thomas Zurbuchen.

"We're doing everything we can to make it a success, but we also know that we may have to scrub and try again", Ingenuity project manager MiMi Aung from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory explained on Saturday.

This first flight of Ingenuity was an autonomous remote flight, with crews on Earth controlling it just by sending commands through at the appropriate times to signal when it should begin and end its 40-second trip through the Martian 'air.' While that might seem like a really short trip, it provides enormous value in terms of the data collected by the helicopter during the flight. "We together flew at Mars and we together now have our Wright Brothers moment".

Images and video, revealed during the livestream, show the brief moments in which the Ingenuity helicopter propelled itself above the surface of Mars, before descending in a straight line for a controlled landing. However, that technology will be used for a much larger vehicle, Dragonfly, to allow it to fly in the dense atmosphere of Titan, Saturn's largest moon.

Today's flight demonstration was autonomous - piloted by onboard guidance, navigation, and control systems running algorithms developed by the team at JPL. Eastern, but data from the flight, relayed through the Perseverance rover and another Mars orbiter, arrived at Earth a little more than three hours later. Video was then downloaded and played at mission control, showing the flight from the perspective of the Mars Perseverance rover.

The Red Planet has a significantly lower gravity - one-third that of Earth's - and an extremely thin atmosphere with only 1% the pressure at the surface compared to our planet.

The four-pound (1.8-kilogram) craft was lifted by its four-foot-long, carbon fibre, counter-rotating rotors that spin at approximately 2,400 rpm. New software was uploaded to the helicopter, and tested over the weekend.

Fortune favors the bold.

The first test flight hovered at around 10 feet off the ground, according to NASA.

"Ingenuity is the latest in a long and storied tradition of NASA projects achieving a space exploration goal once thought impossible", said acting NASA Administrator Steve Jurczyk in a press statement. "The X-15 was a pathfinder for the space shuttle".

Ingenuity hitched a ride to Mars on Perseverance, clinging to the rover's belly upon their arrival in an ancient river delta in February.

The helicopter flight forms a part of NASA's Mars Perseverance rover mission, paving the way for human flight to the red planet by the 2030s.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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