NASA compares first helicopter flight on Mars to Wright brothers

NASA compares first helicopter flight on Mars to Wright brothers
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NASA says its solar-powered helicopter Ingenuity lifted off the Martian surface on Monday, becoming "the first aircraft in history to make a powered, controlled flight on another planet."

The helicopter took off at approximately 3:34 a.m. Eastern, reaching a maximum altitude of 10 feet and staying in the air for about half a minute, NASA said in a press release, comparing the flight to the first one the Wright brothers took in 1903. 

The Ingenuity team received the news that the flight succeeded three hours later, and the crew at the space agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory cheered in response. 


"We've been talking for so long about our Wright brothers moment. And here it is," MiMi Aung, the Ingenuity program manager, told her crew members.

“We will take a moment to celebrate our success and then take a cue from Orville and Wilbur regarding what to do next. History shows they got back to work — to learn as much as they could about their new aircraft — and so will we,” she added.

Mars's gravity is only one-third that of Earth, and its atmosphere is significantly thinner — just two of the variables that make flight on its surface so complicated.

“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,” Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA associate administrator for science, said in a statement.

“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," he added. "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.”