Nasa's Mars helicopter Ingenuity has completed the first ever controlled and powered flight on another planet. Data sent from the Martian surface by the helicopter showed that it had flown up into the air, hovered for 30 seconds, before touching down again safely. It makes history as the first time a rotored craft has flown on another planet, and the first time a spacecraft has conducted a controlled flight of any kind. But it also marks the beginning of a "month of Ingenuity", in which the space agency will look to fly further and for longer across the surface. Images sent from the Ingenuity's navigation camera, mounted on the bottom of the craft, showed its shadow as it flew over the surface.
NASA will attempt to fly Ingenuity for the first time early next month. The agency announced it plans to test fly the 4-pound prototype helicopter no earlier than April 8th. Ingenuity made its way to Mars attached to the belly of NASA's Perseverance rover, which successfully landed on the surface of the Red Planet on February 18th. Perseverance will deploy Ingenuity in a 33-by-33 foot stretch of terrain within the Jezero Crater NASA has selected for its flatness. The entire process will take about six days to complete, with one step of the procedure involving a pyrotechnic cable-cutting device.
When NASA's Ingenuity helicopter completed its third flight in April, its ground team met the last of the three objectives needed to call the technology demo project a success. That's why for its fourth test flight, the Ingenuity team wants to push the machine's performance envelope on Mars by flying farther over more rocks and craters and going faster than it ever had. It's going to happen sooner than later, as well: NASA has announced that the helicopter's fourth flight is scheduled to take off on April 29th at 10:12 AM Eastern time. The Ingenuity team completed its first objective six years ago when it demonstrated that the helicopter can fly inside a JPL chamber. When Ingenuity flew for the first time on Mars back in April, the team met its second objective.
NASA has done it again. This afternoon, the agency stuck a landing on Mars for the 6th time. The latest Martian rover, Perseverance, did not arrive alone. A hitchhiker came along for the journey, strapped to the belly of the rover. Named Ingenuity, the tiny helicopter is experimental technology, and weighs just 4 pounds.