If you were wondering about the triumph of the human spirit and human ingenuity, know that there’s a helicopter named Ingenuity that’s just taken its first flight—on Mars.
The incredible trip, taking less than a minute early Monday morning, is the first time that a powered, controlled flight of a human-created craft has taken place on another planet.
Naturally, NASA shared it to social media, tweeting, “You wouldn’t believe what I just saw.”
The video, posted to YouTube by the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, is part of the activity from the Perseverance rover.
The rover touched down on the Red Planet in February and has since been inspiring people around the world and exciting people who are fans of science.
The flight included a takeoff, visible in this screenshot from the video.
Then, the video captured the helicopter in flight.
Then, they had to prep for sticking the landing.
Which they nailed.
CNN’s coverage noted, “The flight was originally scheduled for April 11, but plans shifted after a command-sequence issue was discovered when the helicopter went through a system of preflight checks with its software. The helicopter team received data on April 16 showing that the helicopter successfully completed its rapid spin test after employing a command sequence tweak.”
That led to the 3:34 am ET autonomous flight on Mars early Monday, which was deemed a success by mission officials, as the helicopter flew through with no help from the teams on Earth.
The flight lasted about 40 seconds total, with the four-pound helicopter spinning upward, propelled by two 4-foot blades, rising up 10 feet in the air, hovering, and snapping a photo before touching back down. The vehicle is expected to make additional trips in the coming weeks.
“Mars is hard not only when you land, but when you try to take off from it and fly around, too,” said MiMi Aung, Ingenuity project manager at JPL. “It has significantly less gravity, but less than 1% the pressure of our atmosphere at its surface. Put those things together, and you have a vehicle that demands every input be right.”
“We can now say that human beings have flown a rotorcraft on another planet,” Aung pointed out. “We’ve been talking about our Wright Brothers moment on another planet for so long. And now, here it is.”