Scientists behind Nasa's Perseverance rover clapped and raised their hands in jubilation as they received a video confirmation of the historic flight of the Ingenuity helicopter from the surface of Mars. In a short clip tweeted by the space agency, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Jet Propulsion Lab team members celebrated the historic moment as the copter rose a few metres above the ground and then landed in a controlled flight. This achievement marked the first controlled flight on another, distant planet.
— NASA (@NASA) April 19, 2021
A voice towards the end of the incredible video says, “Everyone is super excited. I’d say it’s a success.”
Several people congratulated the American space agency and hailed the moment.
This really is incredible. Congratulations to you all.
— Ben Seager (@digsb) April 19, 2021
Yes, you did it, unbelievable, a breath taking moment 👍👍👍
— Markus Tiberius (@markus_tiberius) April 19, 2021
Shortly after, NASA posted a photograph of the rover on Instagram, and said, “Today, the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter made history by being the first craft to lift off and achieve controlled, powered flight on a planet beyond Earth! Ingenuity snapped this incredible black-and-white shot while hovering over the Martian surface. It used its navigation camera, which autonomously tracks the ground during flight.”
The Perseverance Rover landed on the Martian surface in February this year carrying the Ingenuity helicopter. It landed in a region called Jezero Crater. The rover then moved about 20 metres away from the landing site and lowered Ingenuity to the ground. It then took a selfie of the two of them on the Red planet.
Scientists had built the copter very light; it has a mass of just 1.8kg to make it conform to the less gravitational pull on Mar.
Ingenuity has two on-board cameras – a black-and-white camera pointing down to the ground and a high-resolution colour camera that looks out to the forth. The Instagram photograph from Nasa appeared to be captured from the black-and-white camera as the copter took flight above the ground. Its shadow is clearly visible on the Martian surface.
According to NASA, this was just a technology demonstration and scientists hope this achievement would eventually transform how we explore distant planets. The space agency is already in the process of sending a copter mission to Titan, the big moon of Saturn.