by Elizabeth Gamillo/Smithsonianmag.com
Early Monday morning, NASA’s Mars Helicopter Ingenuity became the first aircraft to attempt and successfully complete the first powered, controlled flight on another planet. The flight took place at 3:34 a.m. EDT where Ingenuity whirled ten feet into Mars’s thin atmosphere, hovered for 39.1 seconds, and then safely touched back down onto the planet’s dusty surface, reports Steve Gorman for Reuters.
The historic flight is an impressive proof-of-concept test that confirms helicopters could be beneficial in future interplanetary missions, reports Max G. Levy for Wired. The flying spacecraft could provide aerial views to guide future rovers and astronauts in areas that are difficult to maneuver, reports Marcia Dunn for the Associated Press.
The Martian flight is significantly more complex than on Earth because of the differences in the two planets’ atmospheres. The Martian atmosphere is only one percent as dense as Earth’s atmosphere, so Ingenuity had to spin its rotor blades at 2,500 revolutions per minute to achieve aerodynamic lift—that’s five times faster than needed on Earth, Reuters reports.