NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter captured this shot as it hovered over the Martian surface on April 19 during the first instance of powered, controlled flight on another planet. It used its navigation camera, which autonomously tracks the ground during flight. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Mars Helicopter Makes Historic First Flight

On April 19, NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter became the first aircraft in history to make a powered, controlled flight on another planet. The solar-powered helicopter first became airborne at 3:34 a.m. EDT – a time the Ingenuity team determined would have optimal energy and flight conditions.

Ingenuity’s initial flight demonstration was autonomous – piloted by onboard guidance, navigation, and control systems running algorithms developed by the team at Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Because data must be sent to and returned from the Red Planet over hundreds of millions of miles using orbiting satellites and NASA’s Deep Space Network, Ingenuity cannot be flown with a joystick and its flight was not observable from Earth in real time.

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