NASA Ingenuity completes autonomous flight on Mars

Ingenuity performs first flight on Mars

NASA's miniature robot helicopter Ingenuity performed a successful takeoff and landing on Mars early on Monday, achieving the first powered, controlled flight by an aircraft over the surface of another planet, the USA space agency said.

NASA's official Mars account shared a stunning image of Ingenuity hovering above the Martian surface, and confirmed "more test flights are planned for the coming days".

The drone, called Ingenuity, was airborne for less than a minute, but Nasa is celebrating what represents the first powered, controlled flight by an aircraft on another world.

A short clip sent back by Perseverance rover showed the helicopter grounded at first, howering three meters above the surface and then touching back down.

"It will be truly a Wright brothers moment but on another planet", MiMi Aung, the project manager for the helicopter team, said in a briefing before the rover landed. You're watching video of the #MarsHelicopter's first flight - a true "Wright brothers" moment. As a poignant tribute, a piece of the Wright brothers' original plane - the first powered aircraft to successfully fly - was placed inside Ingenuity. That's necessary because Martian air has just 1% the density of Earth's atmosphere.

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Altimeter data was the first indicator of mission success.

There, it hovered for up to 30 seconds and then descended to a landing.

Perseverance was able to take images and video of the flight, and NASA says additional details on the test and more images are expected in upcoming downlinks.

The historic moment occurred at 03:30 EDT (07:30 UTC) though data and images, beamed from the Mars Perseverance rover to NASA's Deep Space Network (DSN), took approximately four hours to reach mission control in their entirety. There are a few important potential applications, but the first is that it sets up future exploration missions, making it possible for NASA to use aerial vehicles for future science on the red planet. While the project considered updating the flight software to correct the problem, they elected instead to adjust the timing of commands, concluding from testing that it would allow the helicopter to take off 85% of the time.

NASA originally meant to fly Ingenuity on April 11th, but delayed the flight to fix a software issue with its command sequence. Unfortunately, a failed high-speed rotor spin test on Friday 9 April delayed the flight demonstration, but the Ingenuity team appears to have now fixed the issue and completed the test on April 16.

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