NASA’s Space Drone Makes Historic First Flight On Mars
We have achieved another historic scientific breakthrough as NASA’s tiny helicopter, Ingenuity has successfully performed its first flight after the drone was airborne for less than a minute on Mars yesterday!
The flight took place at 3.34am Eastern Time (3.34pm Malaysian Time) on April 19 where the 1.8kg helicopter lifted off the ground, hovered about 1.3m above the Martian surface before it landed after 39.1 seconds.
The lead engineer of this project, Mimi Aung compares Ingenuity’s historic flight to the Wright Brothers’ first powered flight on Earth with the Wright Flyer in 1903, saying “We’ve been talking so long about our Wright brothers’ moment on Mars, and here it is.” In fact, a piece of the Wright Flyer’s aircraft was even attached to Ingenuity to honour mankind’s first flight.
This marks the first ever time in history where a powered aircraft has made its first controlled flight on another planet, and achieving this is no easy feat. Due to the thin atmosphere on Mars (it’s only 1% of the density here on Earth), it’s incredibly challenging for an aircraft to generate lift and take off.
Which is why Ingenuity was designed to be extremely light with the power to spin its blades really fast at around 2,500 revolutions per minute, which is five times greater than helicopters achieve on Earth. And not to mention the 300 million km distance to Mars means that the radio signals would take minutes to traverse the intervening space.
In spite of all these challenges, Aung was confident that the flight would take off. ” We really had nailed the equations, the models and the verification here on Earth in our laboratory tests. So, it then became a question of: have we chosen the right materials to build Ingenuity, to survive the space environment, to survive the Mars environment?” said Aung.
You can watch the historic flight here: