A piece of the Wright brothers’ first airplane is now on Mars.
Nasa’s experimental Martian helicopter holds a small swatch of fabric from the 1903 Wright Flyer, the space agency revealed on Tuesday.
The helicopter, named Ingenuity, hitched a ride to the red planet with the Perseverance rover, arriving last month, reports the Associated Press.
Ingenuity will attempt the first powered, controlled flight on another planet at the start of April in a “Wright brothers’ moment” noted Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
Wilbur and Orville Wright were American inventors and aviation pioneers. In 1903 they achieved the world’s first powered, controlled airplane flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.
The stamp-size muslin swatch from their plane made the 300-million-mile journey to Mars with the blessing of their great-grandniece and great-grandnephew.
“Wilbur and Orville Wright would be pleased to know that a little piece of their 1903 Wright Flyer is going to soar into history again on Mars,” Amanda Wright Lane and Stephen Wright said in a statement.
A fragment of Wright Flyer wood and fabric flew to the moon with Apollo 11′s Neil Armstrong in 1969.
Nasa’s 2kg helicopter will attempt to rise three meters into the extremely thin Martian air on its first ascent. Up to five increasingly higher and longer flights are planned over the course of a month.
For now, Ingenuity remains attached to the rover’s belly. A protective shield dropped away over the weekend, exposing the spindly, long-legged chopper.
The helicopter airfield is right next to the rover’s landing site in Jezero Crater.
The rover will observe the test flights from a distant perch, before driving away to pursue its own mission: hunting for signs of ancient Martian life.