NASA’s Mars Ingenuity helicopter made history early Monday when the small but intrepid drone became the first powered craft to fly on another world and safely landed back on the surface, space agency officials announced. The first powered, controlled flight on another planet took place at 3:34 a.m. ET.
The helicopter team was in mission control at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, early Monday morning to receive and analyze the first data from Ingenuity’s flight attempt. Confirmation of the flight’s success came at 6:46 a.m. The chopper autonomously flew through the thin Martian atmosphere, with no help from its teams on Earth. Images, in addition to the data, also helped the team confirm that the flight was successful. Overcoming extreme cold, dangerously thin air and flawed flight software, the $85 million autonomous copter spun its twin carbon-fiber rotor blades to rise about 10 feet into the thin Martian air. It hovered briefly in the breeze before safely landing at about 3:34 am ET Monday back on the ground, NASA officials said. They plan up to four more flights during the next two weeks.