His first test flight was crowned with success Helicopter Ingenuity of NASA, above the surface of the planet Mars, an achievement so significant that scientists The company likens it to the Wright brothers' first flight in 1903.
About 3:30 a.m. Eastern time (10:30 European time), Ingenuity put its engines in front and took off from the surface of the red planet. It reached an altitude of about 3 meters, where it hovered, swayed slightly in the wind, turned 96 degrees and then returned gently to the surface of Mars in an autonomous flight that lasted about 30 seconds, the space agency said.
More than three hours after the flight, scientists working on the project received news of its success through data that traveled 178 million miles to Earth via a complex communications network, from helicopter to rover, to a spacecraft in orbiting Mars, NASA's vast international space antenna network, and finally JPL.
«We can now say that we have flown a helicopter to another planet", Said the MiMi Aung, Director of NASA's Ingenuity Program. «We went to Mars together. We lived together for a moment like that of the Wright brothers».
Scientists say the successful test, which they described as a "perfect flight", could eventually help the space agency roam faster on Mars as it searches for signs of life. Engineers are already thinking about future aircraft, weighing 50 kg or more, that could conduct scientific experiments in the future.
«New doors open"He said Thomas Zurbuchen, a NASA associate for the director of the scientific mission. A helicopter can fly over craters and other areas that are not accessible by vehicles.
To make its short flight, Ingenuity had to adapt to Mars' extremely thin atmosphere, just 1 percent of Earth's density, making it harder for its propellers to spin at about 2.500 rpm to produce lifting.
This is a very useful addition to NASA 's latest mission to Mars, where along with Perseverance rover, a car-sized vehicle, is ready to explore a crater that once had water and could give clues to the history of the planet and whether there was ever life there.
As a tribute to the Wright brothers, Ingenuity has a stamp-sized piece of cloth from the brothers' aircraft, known as Flyers, connected to a cable under its solar panel.
If all goes according to plan, the helicopter could make up to four flights in the coming weeks. The second could have a higher altitude, at about 5 meters and then fly for a while horizontally before returning to the landing point.