It’s been roughly two years since the little helicopter Ingenuity and the one-ton rover Perseverance launched from planet Earth, and we have come a long way since then. Last year, in February, they docked in a risky and previously unexplored region of Mars, also known as the Jezero Crater, where Perseverance is searching for signs of ancient life. Two months after Ingenuity docked on Mars, it disconnected from Perseverance’s belly and made history. It performed the first flights ever in the atmosphere of another planet. It’s tough to imagine, but worth remembering, as the people watching this story reported last year, that this all occurred millions of miles away, in outer space.
The previous year, on April 6th, in this isolated Martian crater, 170 million miles away from Earth, Perseverance posed for a selfie with Ingenuity, the little helicopter it had just dropped off. Two weeks after that, the rover’s cameras reported Ingenuity’s historic first flight, flying ten feet off the ground for 30 seconds. It may not seem to be a lot, but for those who’d worked so long to make it happen, it was a reason to rejoice.
Project manager Mimi Aung directed the team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, that’s been operating on Ingenuity for six years.