NASA celebrates ‘Wright brothers moment’ as Mars Ingenuity helicopter takes flight
Six years of effort developing the first aircraft to fly on Mars finally paid off for NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) after its Mars Ingenuity helicopter successfully flew over the planet's surface transmitting images back to Earth on Monday.
The US space agency tweeted a short video of the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) team cheering enthusiastically. "We've been talking for so long about our Wright brothers moment. And here it is," said MiMi Aung, Mars Helicopter Project Manager, while thanking the NASA JPL team.
NASA's Ingenuity Helicopter's blades rotate at a rate of 2,500 rotations per minute (RPM) while the blades of a helicopter on earth rotate at only 400-500 RPM, the space agency said. "We're moments away from that all-important data, and the anticipation is definitely building in the room... we're all here in support of one another," said Taryn Bailey, a mechanical engineer with the JPL team.
Meanwhile, NASA Associate Administrator Thomas Zurbuchen said that the “first of many airfields on other worlds” would be known as Wright Brothers Field, as a homage to the two innovative bicycle makers who are credited with inventing the airplane.
"It's important to have the aerial dimension in the context of human exploration of Mars, of which we're dreaming [about], even now," Zurbuchen said, explaining that data from the Ingenuity Helicopter would assist future NASA Artemis missions on Mars.
NASA also said that the Mars Helicopter's successful flight proved that powered and controlled flight from the surface of another planet was possible, adding that “it takes “a little ingenuity, perseverance and spirit” to make that opportunity a reality.