In today’s current news, Ingenuity, NASA’s new helicopter, made its very first historic flight this past week, safely landing back on the surface of the red planet. The very first controlled flight for Ingenuity took place at 3:34 a.m. E.T. on a different planet.
When the Perseverance rover first landed on Mars on February 18, many scientists knew what to expect. However, with Ingenuity, it was unclear what the journey would bring.
The manning of the helicopter took place early Monday morning at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA. Helicopter controllers analyzed the data from the first flight, recording and studying the unit.
The public was able to watch the live coverage of the Ingenuity at 6:15 a.m. E.T. on NASA’s website. The flight was ultimately confirmed a success at 6:46 a.m.
The initial Ingenuity flight was scheduled for April 11. However, plans had to change due to issues with the command sequence, which were discovered after the Ingenuity was put through several pre-flight software checks.
The team for the Ingenuity decided to postpone the flight. They eventually received data on April 16 after employing a tweak in the command sequence, which showed that the helicopter had completed its very first rapid spin test.
Flying Through The Martian Atmosphere
The Ingenuity was able to fly on autopilot throughout the Martian atmosphere.
MiMi Aung, JPL’s Ingenuity project manager, said “We can now say that human beings have flown a rotorcraft on another planet. We’ve been talking about our Wright Brothers moment on another planet for so long. And now, here it is.”
Beyond the data analyzed, the team was able to capture a number of photos confirming the successful flight. The very first photo to appear was a lo-res black and white image from Ingenuity’s navigation camera.
Perseverance has returned a number of images of Ingenuity as well and will continue to send back images and video footage of Ingenuity using its other cameras.
Steve Jurczyk, acting NASA Administrator, said in a statement that “Ingenuity is the latest in a long and storied tradition of NASA projects achieving a space exploration goal once thought impossible. The X-15 was a pathfinder for the space shuttle. Mars Pathfinder and its Sojourner rover did the same for three generations of Mars rovers. We don’t know exactly where Ingenuity will lead us, but today’s results indicate the sky — at least on Mars — may not be the limit.”
What The Future Holds For Ingenuity
Director of JPL, Michael Watkins, said that “The Mars Helicopter project has gone from ‘blue sky’ feasibility study to workable engineering concept to achieving the first flight on another world in a little over six years.”
Ingenuity will receive a “rest day” after its first flight to charge up with its solar panel attachment. To plan for the next flight, the team will utilize the data that Ingenuity sends back.
“Once we get to the fourth and fifth flights, we’ll have fun,” Aung said. “We really want to push the limits. It’s not every day that you get to test a rotorcraft on Mars. So we want to be very adventurous.”