Two kilograms of technology, the challenge of flying in an atmosphere completely different from Earth, with dust, thin air and high temperatures, and a successful first mission. The 39.1-second flight of an Ingenuity helicopter, which reached Mars aboard the Perseverance craft, can be described on Monday and became the first human body to take off and land with solar energy on another planet. It climbed three meters and remained stable for 30 seconds, then returned to the soil of Mars, NASA announced. It was 11:35 am (Portugal time).
With due pageantry, the first “helipad” off the ground was named the Wright Brothers Field, in honor of the aviation pioneers, Orville and Wilbur, who made the first successful controlled flight on December 17, 1903.
“Today, 117 years after the Wright brothers made their first flight on our planet, NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter managed to achieve this amazing feat on another planet. Even though these two iconic moments in aviation history are separated by time and 173 million miles from space ( 278 million kilometers), they will now be connected forever, “said Thomas Zurbuchen, director of the agency.
The helicopter does not have any equipment on board, but at a time when the drone opens the perspective on the ground, it aims to show whether aerial exploration of the Red Planet is also viable. Yesterday, NASA remembered that there were many unknowns on this first flight. Mars has a third of Earth’s gravity and an extremely thin atmosphere with only 1% of the pressure present here at the surface. “This means that there are relatively few air molecules in which the rotating two-meter Ingenuity blades can interact in order to fly,” NASA said. The first test is over and the helicopter engine technology that is now history is made by Portuguese. Florbella Costa, 32, was born in France, where her parents emigrated, and she returned to Portugal in her youth, also taking off in recent years on higher trips. She graduated in aeronautical engineering from the University of Beira Interior (UBI), and today she is a project manager at SpaceLab of the Maxon Group in Switzerland, one of the companies providing technology to NASA’s missions on Mars where she was responsible for developing the device’s engines. “The six DC motors developed by Maxson to control the motion of the rotor blades must be very strong, to be able to withstand vibrations during takeoff and landing as well as the great variation in temperatures found on the planet,” he explained recently. After this first creative journey, four more are planned over the next 30 days.