Today, on April 19th NASA has achieved a historic feat. They have performed the first flight off the Mars’ surface. In fact it was the first powered and controlled planet flight on another planet ever. It was performed by NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter, and lasted 39 seconds. The helicopter doesn’t have any scientific instruments onboard. Its sole purpose was to demonstrate whether such thing was possible on the Red Planet. It was challenging, because although Mars has lower gravity – 1/3rd of that on Earth, it also has much thinner atmosphere – roughly 1% pressure of that near Earth’s surface. To be able to lift off the Mars’ surface it had to spin its blades at over 2500 rpm, when typically helicopters on Earth spin their blades at 500 rpm. During the test flight it reached the altitude of 10 feet and was observed and recorded by Perseverance rover, which it was brought with, 173 million miles from the Earths surface. They landed on the Mars’ surface on February 18th and the Ingenuity helicopter was detached from the Perseverance rover on April 3rd. The initial date of the test flight was April 11th but it was delayed after the engineers encountered a glitch while performing pre-flight tests, and they needed to reupload the entire flight software.
The place where the flight took place was named the Wright Brothers Field. NASA Associate Administrator for Science Thomas Zurbuchen explained: “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 amazing feat on another world, […] While these two iconic moments in aviation history may be separated by time and 173 million miles of space, they now will forever be linked. As an homage to the two innovative bicycle makers from Dayton, this first of many airfields on other worlds will now be known as Wright Brothers Field, in recognition of the ingenuity and innovation that continue to propel exploration.”