19 April 2021 marks a historic day, as controlled flight on another planet was achieved for the very first time. NASA‘s Ingenuity, a solar-powered helicopter, had its first test flight on Mars that day, and it was a roaring success. Above is the very first black and white image taken by Ingenuity while in flight.
Ingenuity is a small helicopter that was designed for a single purpose – to take flight on Mars. It’s quite small with a mass of 1.8 kg and a rotor length of 1.2 metres from tip to tip. The solar panels attached to the helicopter are used to charge lithium-ion batteries, which are capable of providing enough energy for a 90-second flight each Martian day.
This is approximately 350 watts of average power during the flights. Ingenuity was launched, attached to the belly of the Perseverance rover, almost a year ago on 30 July 2020. They landed on Mars on 18 February this year, and Ingenuity began preparing for its flight tests.
The Milestones to Overcome
There were many milestones that Ingenuity needed to overcome in order to successfully take flight on Mars. It had to:
-> Survive the trip to Mars
-> Be safely deployed from Perseverance and onto the Martian surface
-> Properly communicate with Perseverance and Earth
-> On its own, keep warm throughout the night and charge using its solar panel
-> Confirm its energy use over multiple Martian days
-> Successfully use the rotor blades and have them go up to full speed
-> Liftoff, fly autonomously, and land safely in Mars’ thin atmosphere
19 April was Ingenuity’s first flight test. It overcame all the necessary milestones and succeeded in this test. During this flight, Ingenuity was able to take its first black and white photo while in the air, which can be seen above.
If you’d like to see it, a video of this flight was captured by the Perseverance rover and can be seen here. While this was Ingenuity’s first flight on Mars, it likely won’t be its last. NASA researchers are compiling data from the test and preparing to execute more test flights.
Arise Solar – The Future Is Now
Solar technology is what makes Ingenuity possible, but it’s not exclusive to NASA. Arise Solar is proud to offer solar systems for both residential and commercial customers that are both high-quality and affordable.
Our team is happy to help with installations in Brisbane, Queensland, NSW, and Southern Australia. Contact us today to see how our friendly team can help you with your solar system!