NASA on Monday successfully flew its mini helicopter Ingenuity on Mars, the first powered flight on another planet and a feat the agency said was “our Wright brothers moment.”
The 1.8kg rotorcraft lifted off at 7:34am GMT, rose to 3m, swiveled its tissue-box-sized body, swayed in a gentle Martian breeze and then touched down after 39.1 seconds.
Data and images from the flight were transmitted 278 million kilometers to Earth, where they were received by NASA’s array of ground antennas and processed almost three-and-a-half hours later.
Engineers in orange polo shirts were glued to their screens at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, where the mission had been planned for the past six years.
They broke into cheers as one of them read off a checklist of maneuvers Ingenuity had successfully executed, and concluded: “Ingenuity has performed its first flight — the first flight of a powered aircraft on another planet.”
The aircraft quickly sent back a grayscale image from its downward pointing navigation camera, showing its bug-like shadow cast on the surface.
Then came a choppy color video from the Perseverance rover showing Ingenuity on the ground, in flight and once more at rest.
A smoother version followed a few hours later.
“We’ve been talking so long about our Wright brothers moment on Mars, and here it is,” said Ingenuity project manager MiMi Aung to her team, ripping up her contingency plan.
The first powered flight on Earth is credited to Orville and Wilbur Wright on the sand dunes of the Outer Banks in North Carolina in 1903, ushering in the era of aviation.
A swatch of fabric from that plane has been wrapped around a cable under Ingenuity’s solar panel in honor of the feat.
Bob Balaram, Ingenuity’s chief engineer, told reporters that the helicopter was in fine fettle following the maiden run.
“She’s even healthier than she was before this flight — she shook off some of her dust that had been covering the solar panels, and is in fact producing even more solar energy than before,” Balaram said.
NASA had originally planned the flight for April 11, but postponed it over a software glitch that was identified during a planned high-speed test of the aircraft’s rotors.
The issue was later resolved through a coding tweak.
Ingenuity traveled to Mars tucked under the belly of the Perseverance rover, which landed on the Red Planet on Feb. 18.
Ingenuity’s goal is to prove that its technology works.
Ingenuity’s flight was challenging because of conditions vastly different from Earth’s — foremost among them a rarefied atmosphere that has less than 1 percent the density of our own.
This means that Ingenuity’s rotors, which span 1.2m, have to spin at 2,400 revolutions per minute to achieve lift — about five times more than a helicopter on Earth.
A long line of people on Sunday snaked across the sand of Miami Beach, Florida, as dozens of travelers from Latin America waited their turn at a pop-up COVID-19 vaccination booth. Sweating under the afternoon sun, visitors checked into an online system — no proof of residence required — and soon after received a free, single-dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and a vaccination card. People had come from all over Latin America — Ecuador, El Salvador, Venezuela — where the vaccine rollout has been slow and hampered by supply shortages. “In my country, [COVID-19] is getting out of hand and there’s
A man was left stranded on a glass-bottomed suspension bridge in northeastern China after sudden gale-force winds shattered the transparent panels around him. The man was on the 100m-high bridge at Piyan Mountain in Longjing city, when it was hit by sudden strong weather, the local tourism department said. TRAPPED Gusts of up to 150kph blew out several glass panels, trapping the tourist until he could be rescued by firefighters, police, and forestry and tourism personnel more than half an hour later. Photographs shared on social media showed the man clinging to the side of the bridge, surrounded by gaping holes where the
US actress Scarlett Johansson on Saturday urged the film industry to “step back” from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) as criticism of the opaque film industry group, which controls the Golden Globe awards, continues to mount for sexism and racism. The Avengers star said in a statement that the “HFPA is an organization that was legitimized by the likes of Harvey Weinstein to amass momentum for Academy recognition.” Johansson said that “as an actor promoting a film,” participating in the organization’s news conferences and award shows “has often meant facing sexist questions and remarks by certain HFPA members that bordered on
‘COVERT’ ACTIVITY: The High Court ruled against a Chinese-born Australian former adviser to a state lawmaker, who allegedly advanced ‘policy goals of a foreign principal’ A Chinese-born Australian political adviser yesterday lost his challenge in Australia’s highest court against laws banning covert foreign interference in domestic politics. John Zhang (張智森) also lost his Australian High Court challenge in a unanimous decision of seven judges to the validity of search warrants executed by police at his Sydney home and offices last year as part of an investigation into illegal foreign interference on behalf of China. Zhang was an adviser to New South Wales Lawmaker Shaoquett Moselmane, whose membership in the opposition Labor Party was suspended after he was also the target of police raids. The raids in June last