A Piece of the Wright Brother’s Airplane to Take a First Flight on Mars
Amazingly, a small postage-stamp-sized piece of the Wright brothers’ first airplane is now on Mars. NASA revealed that the Perseverance rover carried a small muslin swatch of fabric from the 1903 Wright Flyer to the Red Planet.
“The material is taped to a cable beneath the helicopter’s solar panel, which is perched on top like a graduate’s mortarboard,” reported ABC.
Last month, the space agency successfully landed the Perseverance rover on Mars on February 18, 2021. The journey to the Red Planet covered an astonishing 300 million miles over 203 days.
Perseverance is the largest, most advanced rover NASA has ever sent to another world. Fortunately, it landed perfectly in the Jezero Crater, north of Mars’ equator.
A ‘Wright Brothers Moment’ on Mars
When Perseverance landed, it brought along a four-pound helicopter on its belly, Ingenuity, which holds the swatch. Now, Ingenuity is about fly on Mars, making it the first powered, controlled flight on another planet.
Bobby Braun, director for planetary science at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, says that April 8 will mark a “Wright brothers’ moment” on Mars.
Before it takes off, Ingenuity must separate from the rover and charge itself up with solar power. Over the weekend, a protective shield dropped away from the rover’s underside, revealing the helicopter.
Once airborne, Ingenuity will take pictures of Mars for a full month or 31 days. Meanwhile, Perseverance will search for ancient Martian life and collect rock samples to bring home.
After flying 15 feet into the thin Martian air, the mini-helicopter will hover for 15 seconds and then land. Over the rest of the months, flights will get progressively higher and longer.
Certainly, it will be incredible to know a piece of the first airplane will accompany Ingenuity on its first flight.
According to the Huffington Post, the muslin swatch came from the Kitty Hawk flyer’s bottom-left wing.
Related: Mars Facts: Interesting Facts About Mars, the Red Planet
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A Blessing from the Wright brothers’ Relatives
The Wright brother’s great-grandniece, Amanda Wright Lane, and great-grandnephew Stephen Wright gave their blessing for the swatch’s donation.
“Wilbur and Orville Wright would be pleased to know that a little piece of their 1903 Wright Flyer I, the machine that launched the Space Age by barely one-quarter of a mile, is going to soar into history again on Mars!” stated Amanda Wright Lane and Stephen Wright.
After NASA requested the swatch, the Carillon Historical Park in Dayton, Ohio, donated it with the relatives’ blessing.
Amanda Wright Lane was named to the Advisory Board of the National Air & Space Museum in 2016 by President Obama.
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118 Years From First Airplane to Martian Flight
In 1903 on December 17, Orville Wright made history on the first powered, controlled flight in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. Although the flight lasted only 12 seconds, it marked the First Flight.
Now, 118 years later, the first powered, controlled flight will happen on April 8, 2021. How far we’ve come in such a relatively short time!
Related: Facts About the Search for Extraterrestrial Life in the Universe
The Third Time the Wright Flyer Has Been in Space
As extraordinary as it is to know the Wright Flyer will be on Mars, it’s not the first time parts have been in space. Apollo 11 mission commander Neil Armstrong, the first man to step foot on the lunar surface, brought a piece of the plane to the Moon in July 1969.
As a souvenir, Armstrong carried remnants of fabric and the propeller of the Wright Flyer. Armstrong, Wilbur, and Orville Wright were all from Ohio. The astronaut carried the pieces in a small “personal preference kit” that each astronaut carried on the lunar module.
After returning home, the Smithsonian obtained some of Armstrong’s souvenirs. However, others were auctioned off after the astronaut’s death.
On October 29, 1998, astronaut, senator, and fellow Ohioan John Glenn carried a swatch from the Wright Plane on the space shuttle Discovery into orbit. Glenn was the first American to orbit the Earth on February 20, 1962. Almost four decades later, at 77, he became the oldest man to fly in space aboard the space shuttle Discovery.
A Wright Brothers’ Salute Marking 100 Years
On December 17, 2003, Glenn joined Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, the first men to walk on the moon, in Kill Devil Hills, N.C. They gathered with 100 aviation heroes to salute the Wright brothers.
“Whatever we were able to do, we were able to do because we stood on the shoulders of others,” Glenn told a crowd of thousands at the Wright Brothers National Memorial. The event marked 100 years to the minute since the brother flew over the Outer Banks dunes.
Chuck Yeager, the first person to shatter the sound barrier, was in attendance. Yeager encountered Orville Wright in 1945 at an air show where Orville saw his first jet.
“To be a part of the Wright brothers’ 100th anniversary, it just makes you feel kind of clamped up inside,” Yeager said.
On the day, there was an attempt to recreate the Wright brother’s flight with a replica. However, the attempt failed. President George W Bush spoke as actor John Travolta looked on.
“By our skill and daring, America has excelled in every area of aviation and space travel. And our national commitment remains firm. By our skill and daring, we will continue to lead the world in flight,” said Bush.
Featured image: Wright brothers image by WikiImages via Pixabay, Pixabay License with screenshot via YouTube/WKYC