April 20, 2021

Mars: Ingenuity Makes First Unmanned Flight

The folks at NASA are over the moon because they have achieved something previously unthought of: the first powered flight on another planet.

Their tiny, 1.8-kilogram helicopter – named “Ingenuity” – made aviation history as the first vehicle to fly on a surface beyond Earth by rising three metres above Mars’ Jerezo Crater, hovered for 39 seconds, and then returned neatly to its starting position.

The mission team received video data from Perseverance – NASA’s Mars rover which had carried Ingenuity – on Monday morning, 19 April, that the rotorcraft had successfully completed its planned flight.

At a post-flight press conference on the same day, everyone was abuzz.

Ingenuity’s chief pilot, Havard Grip, commented that it was a “flawless flight” with a “gentle take-off.”

MiMI Aung, manager of the Ingenuity Project, said: ”Absolutely beautiful flight – I don’t think I can ever stop watching it over and over again.”

The occasion was made even more momentous by the fact that a piece of the first powered aircraft to successfully fly on Earth was housed inside Ingenuity.

Aung added: “We’ve been talking for so long about our Wright Brothers’ moment. And here it is.”

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