Mars Helicopter Ingenuity performed its first successful flight from the surface of Mars early Monday, with data received by NASA/JPL engineers 178 million miles away in California at 6:52 a.m. EDT.
“This is real! This is real!” Project Manager MiMi Aung declared when the mission was determined to be a success. “We can now say human beings have flown a hover craft on another planet…We together have our Wright Brothers moment.”
The 4-pound helicopter hovered about 10 feet above the Martian surface moving slightly left to right and then settling back to the surface about 40 seconds later.
The first image received on Earth was a black and white image of the surface of Mars looking down at Ingenuity’s own shadow. The Perseverance rover nearby also shot a color video showing the rise, a brief hover and then descent.
NASA recorded a video on Twitter of the helicopter crew cheering when the first video shot of the flight from Perseverance. A full video of the 46 minute confirmation session was recorded on Youtube. (Skip to 43 minutes for the best parts!)
NASA/JPL crew cheered at every confirmation, first when it was shown on a plotted graph, then a black and white photo and then a color video.
The first flight had been delayed repeatedly, including on April 9 when a high-speed spin test of the helicopter’s two rotors failed to start as expected. Engineers loaded in new commands in recent days to allow the spin test to work on April 16.
NASA has scheduled a full briefing on the successful flight at 2 p.m. ET Monday. Up to four more flights are expected in the next 30 days, longer and further in distance from the flight launch site in Jezero Crater on Mars.