On 19 April 2021, NASA's helicopter Ingenuity took its first flight on Mars. A video, taken by the Perseverance rover, showed its entire flight, from take-off to landing.
Ingenuity rose about three metres above the ground before landing again. The 40 seconds in the air was of a similar level of significance as the first successful powered flight on Earth - which lasted for 12 seconds.
Ingenuity's flight is a technology and engineering achievement.
Flight requires lift. On Earth, with an average air pressure of 1000 millibar, a helicopter blade spins at a rate of 400 to 500 rotations per minute to create lift. On Mars, gravity is about one-third of Earth. Ingenuity's blades had to rotate about 2400 times per minute to provide lift, a significant advance in propulsion technology.
Ingenuity doesn't have rear rotor blades for steering, and commands cannot be given in real-time. It takes 20 minutes for a command to reach the planet.
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