Humanity's first flight on another planet was short, but it was super sweet. On Monday, NASA shared the full video and additional photos sent from the Perseverance rover on Mars of its sidekick, a tiny helicopter named Ingenuity, in action.
"This really is a Wright Brothers moment," acting NASA administrator Steve Jurczyk said in a press briefing Monday.
The solar-powered, 4-pound (1.8 kilogram) aircraft lifted off the floor of Jezero Crater at 12:34 a.m. PT (3:34 a.m. ET), climbed to a height of 10 feet (3 meters), made a 96-degree turn in the air and maintained a stable hover for 30 seconds. It then touched down in almost the exact same spot after 39 total seconds of flight.
The whole thing is captured in the above video recorded in 1,280x720 resolution by the Mastcam-Z camera on Perseverance from the rover's vantage point about 211 feet (64.3 meters) away.
"It gets pushed around a little bit in the winds," explains Håvard Grip, Ingenuity's chief pilot, reviewing the video Monday, "and it stuck the landing."
A downward-facing, black-and-white navigation camera on Ingenuity also captured a few images during the flight.
Grip announced that the International Civil Aviation Organization has assigned Ingenuity an official designator, IGY, and the flight location has the ceremonial designation JZRO for Jezero Crater.
NASA, meanwhile, has named the location of Ingenuity's first flight Wright Brothers Field, in honor of the iconic American flight pioneers.
Ingenuity made the long trip to Mars in the belly of Perseverance, and it was dropped onto the Martian surface on April 3, several weeks after the rover's Feb. 18 landing.
Monday's brief hover is expected to be the first of at least a handful of flight attempts for the little chopper.
Ingenuity project manager MiMi Aung says she hopes to squeeze about four more flights into the two weeks remaining in its experimental flight window. She said the flights will aim to stretch the machine's capabilities to go further and faster.
"We will be pushing the envelope," Aung said, adding that her team will continue to review all data before the next flight attempt, but that the current target for Ingenuity's next test is this Thursday.
When asked if Ingenuity's final fate might be a crash, she replied: "Ultimately we expect the helicopter will meet its limit."
Stay tuned. Things are just starting to heat up on the frozen red planet now that humanity's space robots are no longer grounded.
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