Today, NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter, brought to Mars as a hitchhiker on the Perseverance rover, successfully took flight on the surface of Mars. This is the first time humanity has flown an aircraft on another planet!
Since the atmosphere of Mars is less than 1% of that of Earth’s, the little helicopter’s rotors needed to be spinning fast; over 2500rpms. The interesting thing (to me at least) is that one of the onboard computers on Ingenuity (and also its base station on Perserverance) is running Linux!
The helicopter is equipped with two cameras, one black and white navigation camera mounted at the bottom, and another hi-res color camera for taking touristy scenic shots. We got our first image from the navigation camera today, and it’s the helicopter’s shadow.
After today’s historically successful test, Ingenuity will only fly a few more times. It was included as a technology experiment, and hopefully will lead to more flying space robots.