Full-scale model of the Ingenuity helicopter displayed for the media at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

Full-scale model of the Ingenuity helicopter displayed for the media at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

Part of Wright brothers’ 1st airplane on NASA’s Mars chopper

Ingenuity will attempt the first powered, controlled flight on another planet

A piece of the Wright brothers’ first airplane is on Mars.

NASA’s experimental Martian helicopter holds a small swatch of fabric from the 1903 Wright Flyer, the space agency revealed Tuesday. The helicopter, named Ingenuity, hitched a ride to the red planet with the Perseverance rover, arriving last month.

Ingenuity will attempt the first powered, controlled flight on another planet no sooner than April 8. It will mark a “Wright brothers’ moment,” noted Bobby Braun, director for planetary science at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

The Carillon Historical Park in Dayton, Ohio, the Wrights’ hometown, donated the postage-size piece of muslin from the plane’s bottom left wing, at NASA’s request.

The swatch made the 300 million-mile journey to Mars with the blessing of the Wright brothers’ great-grandniece and great-grandnephew, said park curator Steve Lucht.

“Wilbur and Orville Wright would be pleased to know that a little piece of their 1903 Wright Flyer I, the machine that launched the Space Age by barely one quarter of a mile, is going to soar into history again on Mars!” Amanda Wright Lane and Stephen Wright said in a statement provided by the park.

Orville Wright was on board for the world’s first powered, controlled flight on Dec. 17, 1903, at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. The brothers took turns, making four flights that day.

A fragment of Wright Flyer wood and fabric flew to the moon with Apollo 11’s Neil Armstrong in 1969. A swatch also accompanied John Glenn into orbit aboard space shuttle Discovery in 1998. Both astronauts were from Ohio.

NASA’s 4-pound (1.8-kilogram) helicopter will attempt to rise 10 feet (3 metres) into the extremely thin Martian air on its first hop. Up to five increasingly higher and longer flights are planned over the course of a month.

The material is taped to a cable beneath the helicopter’s solar panel, which is perched on top like a graduate’s mortarboard.

For now, Ingenuity remains attached to the rover’s belly. A protective shield dropped away over the weekend, exposing the spindly, long-legged chopper.

The helicopter airfield is right next to the rover’s landing site in Jezero Crater. The rover will observe the test flights from a distant perch, before driving away to pursue its own mission: hunting for signs of ancient Martian life. Rock samples will be set aside for eventual return to Earth.

Aviation and spaceNASA

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A B.C. Centre for Disease Control map shows new COVID-19 cases by local health area for the week of April 11-17. (BCCDC image)
BCCDC says fresh COVID-19 cases down in most Island Health areas

Nanaimo sees its fewest new COVID-19 cases since mid January

The Sybil Andrews Cottage property in Willow Point, along with the Haig-Brown House property, have both been assigned Community Heritage Designation. Mirror File Photo
Sybil Andrews cottage and Haig-Brown House get full heritage status

Designation offers both protection as well as opening up future funding opportunities

Police executed a search warrant at the Devils Army Clubhouse on Petersen road in Campbell River on August 10, 2017.
John Dillon Brown set off to conclude an out-of-court settlement the day he disappeared

Trial of Richard Alexander continues in B.C. Supreme Court in Victoria

Pharmacist Barbara Violo arranges empty vials of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine that she has provided to customers at the Junction Chemist, an independent pharmacy in Toronto, Monday, April 19, 2021. Younger Canadians in several provinces are now able to get the AstraZeneca vaccine. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
AstraZeneca vaccine appointments fill up fast on Vancouver Island

More pharmacies expected to be added as supply increases

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and United States President Joe Biden smile as they say farewell following a virtual joint statement in Ottawa, Tuesday, February 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau pledges to cut emissions by 40% to 45% by 2030, short of U.S. goal

Trudeau announced target during a virtual climate summit convened by U.S. President Joe Biden

As part of the province’s strategy to combat the opioid overdose crisis, take-home naloxone kits have been distributed throughout the province. (Courtesy of Gaëlle Nicolussi)
Vancouver Island could be at its worst point of overdose crises yet: medical health officer

Island Health issued overdose advisories for Victoria, various communities in the last two weeks

The conservation service confirmed they do not relocate cougars from settled areas but that euthanasia is not necessarily the fate for an animal in the Fanny Bay area. The hope is that the animal will move on to wild areas. (File photo)
Woman hopes cat-stalking Fanny Bay cougar can avoid euthanization

Conservation officers do not relocate the animals from Vancouver Island

Tofino residents expressed frustration over a recent post by Long Beach Lodge owner Tim Hackett that falsely claimed all residents have been vaccinated. (Westerly file photo)
Resort owner apologizes for suggesting Tofino is safe to travel to

Long Beach Lodge owner Tim Hackett apologizes to community and visitors

BC Hydro released a survey Thursday, April 22. It found that many British Columbians are unintentionally contributing to climate change with their yard maintenance choices. (Pixabay)
Spend a lot of time doing yard work? It might be contributing to climate change

Recent BC Hydro survey finds 60% of homeowners still use gas-powered lawnmowers and yard equipment

Journal de Montreal is seen in Montreal, on Thursday, April 22, 2021. The daily newspaper uses a file picture of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau dressed in traditional Indian clothing during his trip to India to illustrate a story on the Indian variant of the coronavirus. Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press
Montreal newspaper blasted for front-page photo of Trudeau in India

Trudeau is wearing traditional Indian clothes and holding his hands together in prayer beside a caption that reads, ‘The Indian variant has arrived’

Nanaimo RCMP say a man was injured while pouring gunpowder on a backyard fire in Harewood on Wednesday, April 21. (File photo)
Nanaimo man hospitalized after pouring gunpowder onto backyard fire

RCMP investigating explosion in Harewood also came across a still for making alcohol on property

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry arrives for briefing on the COVID-19 situation, B.C. legislature, Oct. 26, 2020 (B.C. government)
B.C. sees 1,006 COVID-19 cases Thursday, ‘alarming’ 502 in hospital

Vaccine bookings for people aged 60 and older set to start

Most Read