Mars Helicopter Ingenuity makes history, successfully taking first flight on another planet

On a livestream from mission control early this morning, the Ingenuity team received the very first data confirming the successful flight of Mars Helicopter Ingenuity.

This was the first powered and controlled flight on another planet. The helicopter carried with it a piece from the Wright brothers’ own airplane; an important reminder of the first flight back here on Earth in 1903. Throughout the coming flights, Ingenuity will gather photos of the surface of Mars while Perseverance takes video and photos of the flight. This mission proves that flight on Mars is viable and paves the way forward for future Mars missions to consider flight vehicles as important companions to rovers.

The first image shared from the flight was a downward-looking view from Ingenuity during hover. This black and white camera is primarily used so Ingenuity knows its position over the Martian surface, but provided a great view of the helicopter’s own shadow, as well as the tracks from when Rover Perseverance dropped Ingenuity into place.

Black and white image from helicopter during hover. Credit: NASA/JPL

Shortly after the first telemetry data arrived, the first video from Perseverance arrived. We see Ingenuity take flight and hover over the surface before touching back down. As discussed in a previous conference, only certain frames were sent to Earth at first. This allows the team to quickly see the beginning state, final state, and hover of Ingenuity, confirming the flight was successful while preserving the limited bandwidth of communication between Earth and Mars. We can expect more photos and videos to arrive soon.
Video of the first flight on Mars, taken from the initial livestream. Credit: NASA/JPL

This first flight was a 3-meter hover. Future flights of the helicopter, up to 5 total flights throughout the next month, will be increasingly risky as the helicopter flies over the surface. As the flight campaign is limited to 30 days, we can expect that if Ingenuity survives to a fifth flight it will make an adventurous flight into unsurveyed areas to make the most of the limited test campaign length.

NASA will go live on their YouTube channel once again at 2pm Eastern to provide more analysis on the first flight and the wider impact this flight will have.

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