This morning, NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter achieved controlled flight on Mars, a first for mankind. Interestingly, Ingenuity runs on the same Qualcomm chip as some Android phones, including the Samsung Galaxy S5.
At 3:34 a.m. PT, as announced by NASA, the Ingenuity helicopter took off from the surface of Mars, rose to an altitude of 10 feet, hovered there for 30 seconds, then safely landed back down. The event marked the first time that an aircraft achieved a “powered, controlled flight” on another planet.
Ingenuity is the latest in a long and storied tradition of NASA projects achieving a space exploration goal once thought impossible. The X-15 was a pathfinder for the space shuttle. Mars Pathfinder and its Sojourner rover did the same for three generations of Mars rovers. We don’t know exactly where Ingenuity will lead us, but today’s results indicate the sky – at least on Mars – may not be the limit.
— Steve Jurczyk, acting NASA Administrator
One of the factors contributing to Ingenuity’s early morning flight schedule was the design of the helicopter, as it features a solar panel on top to recharge its four batteries, and by that specific point in time, the helicopter would have the necessary power to rise and land safely.
Another interesting aspect of the design is its internals, running on the Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 chip used in smartphones from 2014 like the Samsung Galaxy S5 and OnePlus One. As noted by the Android team’s Dave Burke, the chip is essentially the same — with some performance tweaks — as the Snapdragon 800 used in the Google Nexus 5, among others.
Of course, instead of running Android, NASA opted for a more traditional Linux operating system. This processor and operating system handle things like the helicopter’s visual navigation system and the flight control systems.
Of course, it’s far cooler to see it all in action, which we can do thanks to a video recorded by the Perseverance rover, which was parked nearby.
Google Search is also taking part in the celebration of NASA’s landmark flight, with a special easter egg for Ingenuity.
More on NASA:
- Google Search adds immersive easter egg to celebrate Ingenuity flight on Mars
- Google celebrates Perseverance rover landing w/ virtual fireworks, AR model, more
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