mars nasa helicopter

Ingenuity: NASA flies first helicopter on Mars [video]

19 April 2021 - 14:20

NASA successfully commissioned the controlled flight of a small helicopter on Mars, a planet with an atmosphere so thin, it accounts for 1% of Earth’s density.

Written by Andile Sicetsha

On Monday, the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) achieved a momentous breakthrough when a team led by Pasadena’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory successfully controlled the flight of a small helicopter on Mars.

NASA flies first helicopter on Mars

The drone which JPL Project Manager MiMi Aung and others nicknamed ‘Ingenuity’, achieved propulsion on the Red Planet, something that was — until Monday — unheard of since Mars’ atmosphere is so thin, it accounts for 1% of Earth’s density.

“We can now say that human beings have flown a rotorcraft on another planet,” Aung delightfully said, barely able to contain her emotions.

Inside the JPL command room, some could be heard likening the historic feat to the ‘Wright Brothers moment’ from 1903 when Wilbur and Orville conducted the first powered, controlled aircraft flight here on Earth.

Watch: Mini helicopter achieves propulson on the Red Planet

Here is footage of the event that was broadcast live from the JPL’s social media accounts:

Ingenuity managed to rise to about three metres, with its blades rotating at over 2 500 revolutions per minute. This test run gave space researchers confirmation that according to science, propulsion is possible on the Red Planet.

In the coming days, more propulsion tests will be conducted, as newer benchmarks are set for the test drone. NASA confirmed that another four flight attempts will be made, each one hopefully taking Ingenuity further afield. Here is a screenshot of the heli’s shadow taken as it was lifting off:

Currently, NASA is depending on its flagship Perserverance Rover to oversee ifs Mars expedition. For the most part, the rover’s mission on Mars is centred around astrobiology and searching “for signs of ancient microbial life.”

“The rover will characterize the planet’s geology and past climate, pave the way for human exploration of the Red Planet, and be the first mission to collect and cache Martian rock and regolith (broken rock and dust),” NASA noted in a statement.

However, this expedition and more voyages on other planets can be achieved at greater lengths with the advent of drone technology and Ingenuity has proven this to be possible.