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NASA’s Ingenuity performs first helicopter flight on Mars

Steve Gorman

Los Angeles – NASA’s miniature robot helicopter Ingenuity performed a successful takeoff and landing on Mars early on Monday, achieving the first powered, controlled flight by an aircraft over the surface of another planet, the US space agency said.

The twin-rotor whirligig’s debut on the Red Planet marked a 21st-century Wright Brothers moment for NASA, which said success could pave the way for new modes of exploration on Mars and other destinations in the solar system, such as Venus and Saturn’s moon Titan.

Mission managers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) near Los Angeles burst into applause and cheers as engineering data beamed back from Mars confirmed that the 4-pound (1.8-kg) solar-powered helicopter had performed its maiden 39-second flight as planned three hours earlier.

Altimeter readings from the rotorcraft showed that it became airborne at 3:34 a.m. EDT (0734 GMT), climbed as programmed to a height of 10 feet (3 meters), then hovered steadily in place over the Martian surface for half a minute before touching back down safely on its four legs, NASA said.

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