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NASA helicopter takes historical flight over Mars

A 4-pound controlled aircraft flew over Mars's surface for the first time in history on Monday morning, 178 million miles from Earth.

Updated: April 19, 2021 - 4:16pm

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

NASA made history Monday morning by successfully flying "Ingenuity" – a 4-pound controlled aircraft – over Mars. The mission marked the first time a powered aircraft has been flown on another planet. 

The experimental helicopter mission concluded at 7 a.m. when the successful results were received by NASA scientists. The mission began with the helicopter rising 10 feet above the planet's surface, hovering for 30 seconds, rotating, then landing on all four legs.

The results were received hours after the flight, despite the 178-million-mile distance to the planet. The mission was celebrated in cheers and applause by the NASA team managing the $85 million demo flight. 

"We can now say that human beings have flown a rotorcraft on another planet," Ingenuity project manager MiMi Aung said. "We have been talking so long about our Wright Brother moment on Mars, and here it is."

Ingenuity arrived on Mars in February via the belly of the Perseverance rover, which documented Monday's historic event from over 200 feet away. Flight controllers received the information on the successful outcome through the rover.

"It happened. Today our #MarsHelicopter proved that powered, controlled flight from the surface of another planet is possible. It takes a little ingenuity, perseverance, and spirit to make that opportunity a reality," NASA's Twitter page shared.

With a rest period of four to five days in between flights, the crew will begin taking Ingenuity on longer flights in the coming weeks.