This morning, NASA's Ingenuity helicopter lifted off on Mars, marking the first-ever powered flight on another planet. NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover confirmed success.

It was all completely autonomous because the time between signals from orbiting satellites and NASA’s Deep Space Network is too long, so no joystick control from JPL. Total flight time was over 39 seconds, most of it hovering at 10 feet above the surface. This also was not monitored in 'real time' because of the distance but Perseverance was parked nearby and got pictures. 

NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter selfie hovering over the Martian surface on April 19, 2021 using its navigation camera, which autonomously tracks the ground during flight. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Ingenuity is proof-of-concept, it is not there to do science. But at the size of a 20-inch tall tissue box with 48 inch rotors, it certainly looks like a science project. You could even make your own; it was assembled from off-the-shelf parts created by numerous companies. NASA will give it another flight in two days and if it survived that then...well, no one knows. It is a short term test vehicle, this is all it can do. But it's cool that it can do it on Mars.

Credit: NASA/JPL

In honor of mankind's first off-planet flight, NASA has named the test site Wright Brothers Field, and the International Civil Aviation Organization - yes, the UN has a civil aviation group for no reason anyone understands - ceremonially gave it the designator IGY, for Ingenuity. They're also including it in their Designators for Aircraft Operating Agencies, Aeronautical Authorities and Services handbook.