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“This is the first time we’ve seen the algorithm for the camera running over a long distance,” said MiMi Aung, the helicopter’s project manager, said in a NASA news release. “You can’t do this inside a test chamber.”


Ingenuity, about three feet tall, is an $85 million project to demonstrate that controlled flight, like an airplane or a helicopter, is feasible on Mars, where the atmosphere at the surface is just 1 percent of Earth’s.

It was tacked on to Perseverance, NASA’s latest Mars rover, which arrived on the red planet in February. Before Perseverance heads off on its main mission — to seek hints of ancient life in a dried-up river delta — the Ingenuity team has 30 Martian days, or about 31 Earth days, to complete five test flights of the helicopter.

“Today’s flight was what we planned for, and yet it was nothing short of amazing,” said Dave Lavery, the helicopter project’s program executive. “With this flight, we are demonstrating critical capabilities that will enable the addition of an aerial dimension to future Mars missions.”