NASA once again careened into the early morning news cycle with some history-making developments of the Mars variety on Monday.

The agency said early Monday that it’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter had become the first aircraft in history to successfully make a powered, controlled flight on another planet. The flight’s success was confirmed by the Ingenuity team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California by way of data received from the helicopter via the Perseverance Mars rover.

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Image via NASA/JPL-Caltech

As Thomas Zurbuchen—NASA’s Associated Administrator for Science—explained in a news release, the name for the Martian airfield was meant as a nod to the history of flight that’s now more than a century deep.

“Now, 117 years after the Wright brothers succeeded in making the first flight on our planet, NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter has succeeded in performing this amazing feat on another world,” Zurbuchen said Monday. “While these two iconic moments in aviation history may be separated by time and 173 million miles of space, they now will forever be linked. As an homage to the two innovative bicycle makers from Dayton, this first of many airfields on other worlds will now be known as Wright Brothers Field, in recognition of the ingenuity and innovation that continue to propel exploration.”

While the 19.3-inches-tall helicopter does not boast scientific instruments aboard its fuselage, its presence on Mars is aimed at showing whether additional explorations on the planet in the future can feature an aerial perspective. Notably, Mars has approximately one-third of the gravity found on Earth and a famously thin atmosphere that could have complicated the helicopter’s ability to take flight. 

In the coming days, the Ingenuity team will analyze data and imagery from this successful test flight in pursuit of plans for a second flight, which is not expected to happen before April 22 at the earliest.

“We don’t know exactly where Ingenuity will lead us, but today’s results indicate the sky—at least on Mars—may not be the limit,” acting NASA Administrator Steve Jurczyk said Monday.

Mars, of course, has remained a hot topic for the space exploration community at large in recent years. Elon Musk said just last year that he’s “highly confident” the first crewed SpaceX flights to Mars will happen as soon as 2026.

https://www.complex.com/life/nasa-ingenuity-mars-helicopter-makes-history-with-first-flight

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