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Nasa’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter conducts first flight on Mars

Nasa’s small robotic helicopter named Ingenuity has successfully completed its first powered, controlled flight on Mars.

The flight was confirmed by the agency’s Ingenuity team at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in southern California, US.

Data from the helicopter was transmitted through Nasa’s Perseverance Mars rover, which served as the communications relay between the helicopter and Earth.

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Perseverance’s cameras recorded the flight operations and additional data will be provided by the rover’s Mastcam-Z and Navcam imagers.

The solar-powered robot rotorcraft was programmed to ascend 10ft up and then maintained a stable hover for 30s and rotate in place over the Martian surface for 30s prior to landing.

Ingenuity flew for up to 39.1s above the Jezero Crater on the planet. It was piloted by onboard guidance, navigation, and control systems running algorithms developed by the team at JPL.

Nasa acting administrator Steve Jurczyk said: “Ingenuity is the latest in a long and storied tradition of Nasa projects achieving a space exploration goal once thought impossible.

“The X-15 was a pathfinder for the space shuttle. Mars Pathfinder and its Sojourner rover did the same for three generations of Mars rovers. We don’t know exactly where Ingenuity will lead us, but today’s results indicate the sky, at least on Mars, may not be the limit.”

Ingenuity was carried to Mars by Nasa’s Perseverance Rover, which touched down in the Jezero Crater on the planet in February.

The 4lb twin-rotor helicopter is currently on the 16th sol, or Martian day, of its 30-sol flight-test window.

The second experimental test flight is scheduled to take place no sooner than 22 April. The flight profile expansion of the helicopter will depend on the success of the second flight test.

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