The US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) successfully conducted the first helicopter flight on Mars on April 19th. The flight is historic as is the first flight of a powered aircraft on another planet. It also opens up a new door for future exploration of other planets in the solar system. NASA said helicopter Ingenuity climbed about 3 meters and hovered for 30 seconds before landing safely on the surface. NASA has compared Ingenuity’s flight to a 21st-century Wright Brothers moment.
Flying Ingenuity in a controlled manner on Mars is more complex than flying on Earth given the very different conditions on the red planet. Mars’ atmosphere is much thinner, with one percent of Earth’s atmospheric pressure. Also, Mars’ gravity is one-third that of Earth’s. To complete a successful flight, Ingenuity’s blades needed to spin five times faster than they would have to on Earth.
Additional flight tests are to be carried out, with plans to see if Ingenuity can go a little higher and farther each time. NASA said such helicopters could assist astronauts on future search and collection missions.