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NASA successfully flies Ingenuity helicopter, a historic flight on Mars

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NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter successfully performed the first powered and controlled flight on another planet on Monday, hovering above the surface of Mars, according to Reuters. 

The Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) confirmed that the flight went as expected. The robot rotorcraft was programmed to ascend 3 meters straight up, then hover and rotate in place over the Martian surface for half a minute before settling back down on its four legs.

“We can now say that human beings have flown a rotorcraft on another planet. We together flew at Mars and we together now have our Wright Brothers moment,” said Ingenuity project manager at JPL, MiMi Aung.

The area will now be known as Wright Brothers Field in tribute to the pioneers of powered flight on Earth. The flight represented a triumph over technical hurdles.

The flight is the first of as many as five scheduled during a month-long test campaign. Later flights will be increasingly ambitious, going to altitudes of up to five meters and travelling dozens of meters downrange and back.