A piece of fabric from the first-ever airplane is on Mars
The Perseverance rover on Mars has been making international headlines for the past few weeks. But now, another piece of tech that is surveying the red planet has garnered attention for its connection to history.
Thanks to NASA’s experimental Martian helicopter, a small piece of the Wright brothers’ first-ever airplane is currently on Mars.
A small patch of fabric from the 1903 Wright flyer was attached to the Marcs chopper named Ingenuity, revealed NASA on Tuesday. The fabric was taped to a cable beneath the helicopter’s solar panel.
The chopper hitched a ride to Mars aboard the Perseverance rover, which arrived on the Red Planet last month.
The surprise package was revealed by Ingenuity chief engineer Bob Balaram on Tuesday during a briefing. It was described as being the size of a postage stamp.
The patch is an unbleached muslin material, which was taken from a wing covering. It draws a connection between the first controlled flight on Earth and NASA’s first controlled flight on another planet.
The piece of muslin was taken from the first-ever plane’s bottom left-wing at NASA’s request. It was then donated to the agency by the Carillon Historical Park in Dayton, Ohio.
The piece has made a 300 million-mile journey to Mars with the blessings of the Wright’ brothers great-grandniece and great-grandnephew, according to park curator Steve Lucht.
“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!” Amanda Wright Lane and Stephen Wright said in a statement provided by the park.
Interestingly, this wasn’t the first time that a piece from the first-ever airplane flew out to space.
A small fragment of the Wright Flyer wood and fabric flew to the moon with Apollo 11 in 1969. Almost three decades later, a swatch accompanied astronaut John Glenn into orbit aboard the space shuttle Discovery in 1998.