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NASA's helicopter on Mars performs first powered aircraft flight on another planet

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NASA’s Perseverance rover acquired this image using its onboard Right Navigation Camera. The camera is located high on the rover’s mast and aids in driving. The image was taken

It is the first successful flight of a controlled, powered aircraft on another planet.

After landing, Ingenuity sent flight telemetry to Perseverance, which then relayed the data to the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), which then transmitted the data downlink to the Deep Space Network (DSN) on Earth.

They broke into applause as one of them read off a checklist of tasks Ingenuity had achieved and concluded: "Ingenuity has performed its first flight - the first flight of a powered aircraft on another planet".

The robot rotorcraft was carried to the red planet strapped to the belly of Nasa's Mars rover Perseverance, a mobile astrobiology lab that touched down on February 18 in Jezero Crater after a almost seven-month journey through space.

A black-and-white photo taken by a downward-pointing onboard camera while the helicopter was aloft showed the distinct shadow cast by Ingenuity in the Martian sunlight onto the ground just below it.

"The Perseverance rover will provide support during flight operations, taking images, collecting environmental data, and hosting the base station that enables the helicopter to communicate with mission controllers on Earth", the agency said in a statement. The basic rules of flight are different, in other words, and Ingenuity is testing many components for the first time. Video was then downloaded and played at mission control, showing the flight from the perspective of the Mars Perseverance rover. Mars' gravity is about a third of Earth's, and the very thin atmosphere offers just 1 percent of our planet's surface-level pressure.

Though the first flight of Ingenuity only lasted only seconds and the flight was not particularly high by Earth standards, the monumental achievement of flying a powered aircraft on another planet - especially one with as thin of air and atmosphere as Mars - can not be understated.

Ingenuity performs first flight on Mars

NASA named Ingenuity's Martian airfield used by Ingenuity the Wright Brothers Field after Orville and Wilbur Wright.

This is a breaking story. Unfortunately, a failed high-speed rotor spin test on Friday 9 April delayed the flight demonstration, but the Ingenuity team appears to have now fixed the issue and completed the test on April 16.

The four-pound (1.8-kilogram) craft was lifted by its four-foot-long, carbon fibre, counter-rotating rotors that spin at approximately 2,400 rpm.

"We can now say that human beings have flown an aircraft on another planet", said MiMi Aung, Ingenuity project manager at JPL.

Typing "Ingenuity NASA" into Google's search bar returns the usual info card containing all sorts of information about the Mars helicopter.

The livestream covering the test flight will kick off at 06:15 am EDT (10:15 am UTC).

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