Ingenuity—the small helicopter delivered to Mars by the Perseverance rover—has successfully taken its first flight on the Red Planet! he distance between Earth and Mars means that lagtime precludes real-time remote control, the helicopter flies autonomously. The image above captured by Ingenuity shows its shadow on the surface. Kenneth Chang writes in the New York Times:
At 3:30 a.m. Eastern time — it was the middle of the Martian day, half an hour past noon — the helicopter spun up its rotors as it had been commanded and rose above Jezero crater, into the Martian sky.
It hovered at a height of some 10 feet. In less than 60 seconds, it was back down on the surface.
But at that moment, no one on Earth — including people at NASA — knew what was actually happening. The two spacecraft were not in communication with Earth during the test, and Ingenuity had to perform all of its actions autonomously.
Minutes later, engineers analyzed the data and found evidence of the successful flight.
"Altimeter data confirms that Ingenuity has performed its first flight," Havard Grip, the engineer who serves as NASA's chief pilot for Ingenuity, announced as the data arrived, "the first powered flight of a powered aircraft on another planet."