Photos Show NASA's Mars Helicopter Taking Flight for the First Time

It was the first powered aircraft flight on another planet.

NASA's Ingenuity Mars helicopter
The Ingenuity helicopter prepares to take flight on Mars. | Courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU
The Ingenuity helicopter prepares to take flight on Mars. | Courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU

In February, NASA's Perseverance rover made its dramatic descent onto Mars' surface to begin studying the red planet's habitability in the ancient past. The rover in itself poses exciting new opportunities for astronomers, but it also landed with a four-pound helicopter in its underbelly that will assist with research.

The helicopter—named the Ingenuity—was recently deployed from the Perseverance in preparation for a series of test flights, and on Monday, it finally lifted off the ground, making history as the first powered aircraft to take flight on another planet.

The Ingenuity was only airborne for 39 seconds, a short but promising feat for something that's never been done before. While it was in the air, it snapped a couple of photos that show its cameras are functioning, too.

Mission controllers, based out of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, nervously waited for three hours after the Ingenuity's flight to receive word if everything went as planned. The Associated Press reports that when news of the success reached home, the control center erupted in cheers, applause, and laughter.

"We’ve been talking so long about our Wright Brothers moment, and here it is," project manager MiMi Aung told AP. The Ingenuity even carried a bit of wing fiber from the Wright Flyer as a nod to the first-ever aircraft flight in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, more than 117 years ago.

The Ingenuity will undergo more test flights in the future and assuming everything goes well, it will pave a groundbreaking path moving forward. Having functional helicopters on other planets will allow space researchers to scout new areas remotely and cover dangerous terrain more easily in their quest to understand the nuances of our solar system.

Scroll down for a selection of photos and GIFs documenting the Ingenuity's historic test flight on Mars.

rendering of the Mars helicopter test flight plan
A rendering of the Ingenuity's flight plan. | Courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech
The Ingenuity helicopter seen deploying from the belly of the Perseverance rover. | Courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech
The blades of the Ingenuity copter begin spinning. | Courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU
The Perseverance rover takes a selfie with the Ingenuity copter. | Courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS
The Ingenuity's first black & white photo in the air.
The first photo taken by the Ingenuity during its test flight. | Courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech
The Ingenuity helicopter team waits for results from the test flight in Pasadena, California. | Courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech

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Kyler Alvord is a news writer at Thrillist. Find him on Twitter and Instagram. Or don't. It's really up to you.