NASA has officially achieved the first controlled, powered flight on a planet other than Earth. The Ingenuity Drone completed its first successful flight which means that it is the first man-made machine to ever complete a powered flight on another planet.
We can now say that humans have flown a drone on another planet! However, it is not as simple as it sounds. It took a lot for this flight to even happen and more for it to happen successfully. For starters, this drone costs a whopping $85 million. The technology that it houses and uses is cutting edge and all has to be able to withstand extreme conditions. Finally, the drone itself had to make it thousands of miles across the barren wasteland that is space.
It took scientists years to design a craft that was capable of completing the job at hand while also being able to fly through the freezing vacuum of space and withstand the weather and atmosphere on the red planet! The drone is tough, and that is one of the things that made its development so difficult. However, it was not just the design that made this hard.
The atmosphere on Mars is a harsh place that is much more difficult than Earth’s atmosphere to fly in. The atmosphere on Mars is significantly less dense, which means that flying near the ground on Mars is like flying 22 miles above the ground on Earth. This drone is designed like a helicopter, and helicopters on Earth don’t usually fly more than a few miles high. This alone should tell volumes to how difficult this mission really was.
To fly in these types of conditions, they had to create a special drone that was capable of being able to create enough lift with the limited atmosphere available. This meant that the engineers at NASA had to get creative. To achieve this goal, they created a drone that is no larger than a small box that utilized two counter-rotating helicopter blades to create the thrust needed to get the drone off the ground. In another article, we will dive a little deeper into how this drone really works!
The drone didn’t go too high, and only snapped a few pictures. However, that achievement alone is enough to prove what humans are really capable of. This achievement is one of many that will come from the drone as well as the new rover that is now setting off to explore the red planet. We will continue to get tons of pictures from the new Mars rover over the next few years and the data retrieved will help scientists learn more about the planet than we have ever known before!
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