NASA revealed on Tuesday (23) that the drone Ingenuity will be carrying a special cargo when it starts the engine and becomes the first aircraft to make a controlled flight on another planet, in the sky of Mars.
It is a tiny piece of the Wright brothers’ historic airplane, which made the first engine-controlled flight on Earth on December 17, 1903, in Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina (United States).
The piece in question is a small sample of fabric from one of the wings of Flyer 1, an aircraft with which Orville and Wilbur Wright flew for more than 30 meters on the first attempt that day. The material, the size of a postage stamp, is attached to a cable under the solar panel of the Martian helicopter – NASA used electrical tape to secure it there.
This is not the first time that pieces of Wright Flyer I have gone into space. The Apollo 11 crew carried a different part of this fabric, known as muslin, during the mission carried out in July 1969, when the manned spacecraft landed on the Moon. On that iconic trip to the natural satellite, there was also a small splinter of the plane.
The beginning of a new era
Just as the Wright brothers’ plane made history, the Ingenuity helicopter wants to usher in a new era in space exploration. On April 8, he will make his first flight attempt on Mars, rising 3 meters high for 30 seconds. Other short flights may happen in the sequence, depending on weather conditions.
If the flights on the Red Planet are successful, equipment that allows aerial exploration in other worlds should be present in the future missions of the American space agency. One is the Dragonfly, which will launch in 2027, taking a drone full of instruments to Titan, Saturn’s largest moon.