Many years ago, I was at a book signing and someone asked me, “Hey, why can’t we explore Mars with aircraft?” I said, “Because the air is too thin. That’s just the worst idea ever.” Well, I wasn’t quite that rude—but that’s what I was thinking.
Yet on April 19, the Ingenuity helicopter made its historic first flight on Mars. So that shows you what I know. Countless engineers and scientists worked on the project, but the effort was directed by MiMi Aung. She briefed President Joe Biden on the flight shortly after. No big deal, right? Making a helicopter fly in the planet’s low atmospheric pressure is no small feat, especially considering it has to pilot itself—communication latency between Earth and Mars makes direct control impossible. But MiMi and her team were able to make it happen, and it will pave the way for more rapid Mars exploration in the future.
Weir is an author whose novels include The Martian and Project Hail Mary
- The Fight to Save the Salmon
- Inside the World of Black Bitcoin, Where Crypto Is About Making More Than Just Money
- The 'Great Resignation' Is Finally Getting Companies to Take Burnout Seriously. Is It Enough?
- Suddenly, Everyone on TV Is Very Rich or Very Poor. What Happened?
- Colin Powell Reflects on His Mistakes in Unpublished TIME Interview
- Business Travel's Demise Could Have Far-Reaching Consequences
- If the U.S. Spends Big on Climate, the Rest of the World Might Follow