NASA flies and lands helicopter on Mars, the first flight on another planet

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NASA's Ingenuity helicopter on April 7, 2021 as it prepared to fly.
NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA successfully conducted the first controlled flight on another planet on Monday, as its Mars helicopter Ingenuity flew a short flight in what the agency describes as “a Wright Brothers moment” on another planet.

“Ingenuity is reporting having performed spin up, takeoff, climb, hover, descent, landing and spin down,” NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory flight control said on the agency's webcast.

Video from NASA rover Perseverance shows helicopter Ingenuity spinning up its rovers, hovering, and then landing on Mars.
NASA/JPL-Caltech

Ingenuity weighs just four pounds, and was planning to fly for as long as 30 seconds to about 10 feet above the surface. The helicopter's rotors spun to more than 2,500 revolutions per minute, far faster than a helicopter on Earth due to the thin atmosphere of the Martian environment.

The flight was autonomous, given that there is a 15 minute delay in communication's between NASA's location in California and the surface of Mars.

The helicopter arrived on Mars with NASA's rover Perseverance, which landed on February 18 after a six-month voyage. Perseverance deployed the helicopter from underneath the rover earlier this month, with NASA performing a long list of pre-flight checks over the past two weeks. Perseverance is expected to return imagery of the flight in the hours ahead, captured using the variety of cameras on the rover.

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