WATCH: NASA Launches First Craft To Fly On Another Planet's Surface

By Jason Hall

April 19, 2021

NASA made a historic launch on Monday with its first craft to successfully achieve controlled flight beyond planet Earth on Monday (April 19.)

The miniature 4-pound solar-powered helicopter "Ingenuity" ascended above Mars' surface, hovered and then touched back down, NASA mission control confirmed via NBC News.

The successful flight was documented by photos received from the craft's onboard navigation camera, which showed a shadow cast by the miniature helicopter on the planet's surface, followed by color video of the flight moments later.

"It's real," said MiMi Aung, Ingenuity project manager, moments after first data from the helicopter was processed via NBC News.

Aung gave the other engineers in mission control a thumbs up to a crowd of applause and cheers before tearing up her contingency speech in celebration of the successful launch.

“We can now say that human beings have flown a rotorcraft on another planet," Aung said.

Aung said NASA officials had "been talking for so long about our Wright brothers moment on Mars," comparing Monday's experiment achieved by Orville and Wilbur Wright's first successful motor-operated airplane flight 117 years prior.

The "Ingenuity" helicopter paid tribute to the Wright brothers by having affixed a tiny swath of wing fabric from the original flight at Kitty Hawk under the miniature craft's solar panel.

The "air field" for the interplanetary test flight from Earth was a total of 173 million miles traveled to a vast Martian basin called Jezero Crater.

"Ingenuity" was carried to Mars strapped on the belly of NASA's rover "Preserverance," a mobile astrobiology lab that initially touched down on Mars in February 18 following a nearly seven-month journey through space in search of ancient life on the red planet.

“This is just the first great flight," Aung said, adding that crews must immediately return to working on more flights after celebrating monumental achievements.

"Ingenuity" is expected to take several more lengthier flights in the coming weeks after resting 4-5 days in between to recharge its batteries.

NASA is aiming to make similar flights of aerial surveillance to other destinations in the solar system including Venus or Saturn's Titan moon.

Photo: Getty Images

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