Recently, NASA successfully flew its tiny experimental helicopter Ingenuity on Mars, the first powered flight on another planet and a feat a top engineer called “our Wright brothers’ moment.”
Data and images from the autonomous flight were transmitted 173 million miles (278 million kilometres) back to Earth where they were received by NASA’s array of ground antennas and processed more than three hours later.
- More than six years in the making, Ingenuity is just 19 inches (49 centimeters) tall, a spindly four-legged chopper.
- Its fuselage, containing all the batteries, heaters and sensors, is the size of a tissue box.
- The carbon-fiber, foam-filled rotors are the biggest pieces: Each pair stretches 4 feet (1.2 meters) tip to tip.
- Ingenuity also had to be sturdy enough to withstand the Martian wind, and is topped with a solar panel for recharging the batteries, crucial for surviving the minus-130 degree Fahrenheit (minus-90 degree-Celsius) Martian nights.
- Ingenuity was on autopilot for its entire flight, out of sight, direct control, or contact with the men and women on Earth who had ordered it aloft—because radio signals take too long to travel between the planets for any human operator to intervene.
- The mini 4-pound (1.8-kilogram) copter even carried a bit of wing fabric from the Wright Flyer that made similar history at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, in 1903.
- NASA is an acronym for National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
- NASA is an independent agency of the United States Federal Government responsible for the civilian space program, as well as aeronautics and aerospace research.
- NASA was established in 1958, succeeding the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA).
- It is headquartered in Washington, D.C., United States.
- The acting administrator of NASA is Steve Jurczyk.
- Mars is the fourth planet from the Sun and the second-smallest planet in the Solar System, being larger than only Mercury.
- Mars is sometimes called the Red Planet. It’s red because of rusty iron in the ground. Like Earth, Mars has seasons, polar ice caps, volcanoes, canyons, and weather.
- It has a very thin atmosphere made of carbon dioxide, nitrogen, and argon.
- Mars is named for the ancient Roman god of war. The Greeks called the planet Ares (pronounced Air-EEZ). The Romans and Greeks associated the planet with war because its color resembles the color of blood.
- Mars has two small moons.