SMALL TALK: History in the making on the Red planet
NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter created history a couple of days ago when it took off from the dusty red surface of Mars - the first powered, controlled flight on another planet. Altimeter data showed the drone climbed to its prescribed maximum altitude of 10 feet and maintained a stable hover for 30 seconds. It then descended, touching back down on the surface of Mars after logging a total of 39.1 seconds of flight.
NASA hailed it as a “Wright brothers moment” on Mars. The first-ever powered flight on another planet (by humans at least). Ingenuity was built at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab with engineers from defense contractor AeroVironment and delivered to Mars on the Perseverance spaceship. The four-pound Ingenuity with a four-foot-long blade spun at 2,500 revolutions per minute, 5x faster than on Earth, due to the thin Martian atmosphere.
This first flight of Ingenuity was an autonomous remote flight
, with crews on Earth controlling it just by sending commands at the appropriate times to signal when it should begin and end its 40-second trip through the Martian “air.” The seemingly short trip provides immense value in terms of the data collected by the helicopter during the flight - owing to the powerful processor onboard the copter.
Next up, NASA will be looking to gains valuable insights from the data collected. Additional flight attempts are planned will add lateral movements of several meters. Important first steps for humanity to become an interplanetary species.