Nasa’s Ingenuity Mars helicopter has completed the first powered, controlled flight on another planet, the space agency has announced.
The small helicopter successfully took flight on the red planet on Monday morning, hovering in the air at an altitude of about 3 metres (10 feet), before descending and touching back down on the Martian surface.
The news was met by cheers and applause at mission control, and pictures from the mission showed the craft hovering.
MiMi Aung, the Ingenuity project manager at Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), said: “We can now say that human beings have flown a rotorcraft on another planet.”
The aircraft is part of a technology demonstration – a project that aims to test a new capability for the first time.
Data from the first flight returned to Earth a few hours after the autonomous test.
Pictures showed a shadow of Ingenuity hovering above the planet’s surface, and a video showed it grounded on the surface.
The 1.8kg solar-powered craft’s 40-second flight marked a 21st-century Wright brothers moment for Nasa, which said success could pave the way for new modes of exploration on Mars and other destinations in the solar system, such as Venus and Saturn’s Titan moon.