Nasa's helicopter makes history with successful flight on Mars

LOS ANGELES The National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (Nasa) miniature robot helicopter Ingenuity performed a successful take-off and landing on Mars yesterday, achieving the first powered, controlled flight by an aircraft over the surface of another planet, the US space agency said.

The solar-powered whirligig's successful debut could pave the way for new modes of exploration on Mars and other destinations such as Venus and Saturn's moon Titan.

Mission managers at Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory near Los Angeles burst into cheers as engineering data beamed back confirmed that the 1.8kg twin-rotor helicopter had performed its maiden 40-second flight as planned.

The robotcraft was programmed to ascend 3m straight up, hover and rotate in place over the surface for half a minute before settling back down on its four legs. - REUTERS