The "Wright brothers' moment" takes place April 8.

By Andrea Romano
March 25, 2021
Advertisement

The first plane in flight is also the first plane in space.

According to the Associated Press (AP), a small piece of the Wright brothers' 1903 Wright Flyer, which was the first "heavier-than-air powered aircraft" in flight, is part of NASA's Martian helicopter, Ingenuity. A small swatch of fabric from the plane hitched a ride on the helicopter, which reached Mars aboard the Perseverance rover last month.

illustration depicting Mars Helicopter Ingenuity during a test flight on Mars
Credit: Courtesy of NASA

"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!" said Amanda Wright Lane and Stephen Wright in a statement, shared by the Carillon Historical Park in Dayton, Ohio to the AP.

The aviation and aerospace industries, while being separate entities that deal with different kinds of aircraft, have always been linked. Bobby Braun, director for planetary science at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, noted to the AP that Ingenuity's first flight will also be a "Wright brothers' moment."

The park provided a small piece of muslin, about the size of a postage stamp, from the plane's left wing, the Associated Press reported, in order for it to make the 300 million mile journey to the Red Planet.

There is a special significance of including a piece of the Wright brothers' plane with the Ingenuity helicopter since it will be making history as the first powered, controlled flight on another planet on April 8, the AP reported. Much like the 1903 Wright Flyer ushered in the aviation age in Kitty Hawk in 1903, the Ingenuity will be marking a new chapter in space exploration.

Previously, a swatch from the plane also accompanied John Glenn on his trip into orbit aboard the space shuttle Discovery in 1998, and both wood and fabric pieces took a journey to the moon aboard the Apollo 11 mission in 1969.

Andrea Romano is a freelance writer in New York City. Follow her on Twitter @theandrearomano.