Apr 19, 2021 - Science

NASA's Mars helicopter takes flight as first aircraft piloted on another planet

Ingenuity sits on the surface of Mars.
Ingenuity on the surface of Mars, filmed by NASA's Perseverance rover. Photo: NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA successfully piloted the Ingenuity Mars helicopter for its first experimental flight on Monday, briefly hovering the aircraft as NASA's Perseverance rover collected data.

Why it matters: Ingenuity's short flight marks the first time a human-built aircraft has flown on a world other than Earth, opening the door to new means of exploring planets far from our own.

What they're saying: "We've been talking for so long about our Wright brothers moment. And here it is," project manager MiMi Aung told her team. "We can now say that human beings have flown a rotorcraft on another planet."

  • The "airfield" that Ingenuity landed in will be known as Wright Brothers Field, "in recognition of the ingenuity and innovation that continue to propel exploration," tweeted Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA's associate administrator for science.

What to watch: Up to five more helicopter flights are planned, per AP — and if the test flights are successful, they "could lead the way to a fleet of Martian drones in decades to come."

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