/ 20 April 2021

Ingenuity takes flight

For the first time, Earthlings have guided a powered, controlled flight by an aircraft on another planet. That happened last night when NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter lifted off on Mars for about 40 seconds. And it means there are many drone adventures in NASA’s future with the mini-chopper able to explore the Red Planet’s surface from above. It’s an achievement up there with the Wright Brothers’ inaugural flight 117 years ago – and a tiny piece of the original flyer’s wing has been attached to the helicopter to mark its significance. NASA hopes to conduct a series of longer flights in the coming weeks, but last night’s success doesn’t guarantee smooth flying in the future… There are many factors at play – a bad landing from a gust of wind or from the planet’s lack of gravity could bring an end to the Ingenuity in a moment.

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