NASA has pulled off the first powered flight on another world. Ingenuity, the robot rotorcraft that is part of the agency’s Perseverance mission, lifted off from the surface of Mars on 19 April, in a 39.1-second flight that is a landmark in interplanetary aviation.
“We can now say that human beings have flown a rotorcraft on another planet,” says MiMi Aung, the project’s lead engineer at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California.
Ingenuity’s short test flight is the off-Earth equivalent of the Wright Brothers piloting their aeroplane above the coastal dunes at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, in 1903. In tribute, the helicopter carries a postage-stamp-sized piece of muslin fabric from the Wright Brothers’ plane. “Each world gets only one first flight,” says Aung.
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