NASA just scored some serious bragging rights among Earthlings. The agency's Ingenuity helicopter completed a short flight on Mars—the first powered flight on another planet, reports the Washington Post. The 4-pound craft rose about 10 feet for 30 seconds or so before returning to the planet's surface. One of the biggest challenges was getting enough lift in Mars' thin atmosphere, but the twin rotors managed the feat, per CNN. The flight occurred about 3:30am, and when confirmation reached Earth three hours later, engineers erupted in applause at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California. The flight could open all new avenues in exploration of the planet.
“We can now say that human beings have flown a rotorcraft on another planet," project manager MiMi Aung announced to her team, per the AP. The helicopter arrived on Mars with the Perseverance rover earlier this year. A post at Space.com calls the feat "game-changing" because it means that future Mars missions could include similar mini-choppers as scouts for rovers or to collect data on their own. "The aerial exploration of Mars has begun," writes Mike Wall. The Ingenuity mission cost an estimated $85 million. (Read more Mars stories.)