I’m assuming that everyone has heard that Ingenuity flew on Mars today, the first controlled, powered flight on another planet. But just in case – here’s the flight, as seen from the Perseverance rover, parked a hundred yards or so away:
The Martian atmosphere is only 0.06% as thick as Earth’s, which is why most experts had always figured this wasn’t possible. But if you make your vehicle light enough and you spin counterrotating blades fast enough…
Powered up, lifted off, climbed to 3 meters (10 feet), hovered, did a 90° turn to the right, hovered some more, got buffeted about a few feet by the wind, corrected and came back, descended, landed, powered down. Perfectly textbook!
Looking straight down underneath Ingenuity, the navigation cam saw the helicopter’s shadow just a split second before touchdown. You can see the tips of the legs in the upper corners.
As always, it is truly a joy watching the team celebrating after they spent years of their lives planning these missions, building these spacecraft, and now seeing the results of their success.
Congratulations to the team at JPL, NASA, and the anthropomorphic spacecraft 153,000,000 miles from Earth and making history!