Many of us were waiting for this news, the first flight of a terrestrial aircraft on another planet was a success!
First image sent by Ingenuity from the air. Image credit: NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
This Monday, April 19, the Ingenuity helicopter has become the first aircraft in history to perform a motorized and controlled flight on another planet. The news was disclosed in the NASA Science Mars portal where they report the progress of the Perseverance rover and Ingenuity helicopter missions, as well as in other web portals around the world.
As I told you, Ingenuity arrived at Mars attached to the belly of the Perseverance rover, and after several maneuvers that lasted approximately six days the small helicopter was landed on the Martian soil on April 3, it was expected that this aircraft would make its maiden flight any time before April 11, But several bugs in the software that controls the spacecraft arose when engineers attempted to switch the pre-flight system to flight mode, which led to a complete software overhaul and reinstallation, delaying Ingenuity's flight until yesterday.
The helicopter lifted off at 12:33 Mars solar time (12:34 a.m. PDT), the time at which the engineers estimated that the power and flight conditions were the most suitable; the flight lasted less than a minute, 40 seconds to be exact, in which it managed to ascend to a height of 3 m and remained stable, then descended and landed again on the surface of Mars.
On the other hand, the conditions on Mars are not the same as on Earth, although it has lower gravity, its atmosphere is considerably less dense compared to ours, which means that there are fewer air molecules, necessary for the rotor blades to propel the helicopter, so this flight was full of unknowns.
Undoubtedly, this mission represents a great moment for space exploration, because if the next scheduled flights for the helicopter are successful, with which it is expected to go further and further, it would be adding a very useful tool not only to plan the route to be followed by the Perseverance rover, but we are talking about that it could become a common way to explore other planets in the future.
Imagine sending drones to other planets! It would be a great help to plan the missions of the explorer vehicles, or serve as support to explore places that their wheels do not allow them to reach.
It is undoubtedly a great moment, which NASA engineers have compared to the first flight of the Wright brothers, which although it was also short, opened new doors and introduced us to the immense possibilities of flight with aircraft.
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