In 1903 humans took to the sky; the Wright brothers designed and flew the worlds’ first controlled powered flight – it lasted a full 12 seconds. Over 118 years later, a piece of fabric from the Wright brothers plane, Flyer 1, has been flown to Mars, aboard the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter, and is hoping to participate in another historic first. The Ingenuity Mars Helicopter will attempt to make the first controlled powered flight on another planet in April 2021.
Flyer 1 – the World’s first controlled powered flight
The Flyer 1 was the fist plane to enjoy proper flight. Starting with just 12 seconds of flight, the plane eventually reached the impressive flight time of 59 seconds. Whilst the aircraft was historically important, it sustained significant damage due to high wind, and the original plane never flew again.
So how did the plane end up on Mars?
The plane itself has not been taken to Mars, but a piece of the fabric which once covered its wing, an unbleached muslin called “Pride of the West”, has been wrapped round the a part of the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter. This isn’t the first time that parts of Flyer 1 have enjoyed extra-terrestrial journeys though! A piece of the fabric and a splinter of wood from the original plane was taken to the Moon and back aboard the Apollo 11 rocket.
It is both fitting and a sign of human sentimentality then, that a piece of fabric from the Earth’s first controlled powered flight, will be involved in humankind’s first attempt at launching controlled powered flight on another planet. If nothing else, it drives home the incredible rate of technological advancement which has taken place over the last hundred years.
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