Ingenuity became the first aircraft in history to make a controlled and powered flight on another planet. The helicopter completed its third trip on the Martian surface last Sunday and compared to the last two trips the helicopter flew both faster and farther. The helicopter covered a distance of 164 feet (50 meters) and reached a speed of 6.6 ft/s (2m/s). The Ingenuity Mars Helicopter team is looking ahead to planning its fourth flight in a few days’ time.
The first flight was full of uncertainties. Mars has just one-third of Earth’s gravity and 1% of the pressure at the surface compared to our planet. Ingenuity can utilize much fewer air molecules to achieve this flight. Thus its blades are much larger than the same sized crafts would be on Earth, and they also spin six times faster than ones on Earth, at around 2,400 RPM. The unique components inside the helicopter are mainly from the smartphone industry, it’s also the first time they have been tested in space during this fight.
“Today’s flight was what we planned for, and yet it was nothing short of amazing,” said Dave Lavery, the project’s program executive for Ingenuity Mars Helicopter at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “With this flight, we are demonstrating critical capabilities that will enable the addition of an aerial dimension to future Mars missions.”
“Now, 117 years after the Wright brothers succeeded in making the first flight on our planet, NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter has succeeded in performing this amazing feat on another world,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA Associate Administrator for Science. “While these two iconic moments in aviation history may be separated by time and 173 million miles of space, they now will forever be linked. As an homage to the two innovative bicycle makers from Dayton, this first of many airfields on other worlds will now be known as Wright Brothers Field, in recognition of the ingenuity and innovation that continue to propel exploration.”