Ingenuity, the small robotic helicopter that recently accompanied the Perseverance rover to the Red Planet, has successful completed its first test flight. NASA said the historic flight took place at approximately 3:34 a.m. Eastern, at which time the solar-powered helicopter climbed to a predetermined altitude of 10 feet. The craft hovered in place for 30 seconds before descending and touching down on the Martian surface. In total, 39.1 seconds of flight time were logged.
The test flight was fully autonomous. Due to the vast distance between Earth and Mars, it’s simply not possible with today’s technology to fly Ingenuity in “real time.”
Fittingly, NASA decided to name the airfield where the first flight took place Wright Brothers Field in honor of the pioneers that made aviation history here on Earth back in 1903.
Interestingly enough, NASA didn’t outfit Ingenuity with any science instruments. Instead, the space agency wants to determine whether it is feasible for future craft to explore Mars from an aerial perspective.
Still, we should have some interesting data and footage to comb over soon as the Perseverance rover sat nearby and captured the whole thing with its cameras. NASA said it expects additional details on the test flight in upcoming downlinks.
Ingenuity’s next flight is scheduled for no earlier than April 22.