2 Apr 2021
On December 17th, 1903 Orville and Wilbur made history on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Four miles south of Kitty Hawk to be exact. They used their plane Flyer 1 to travel for 120 feet over the sand covered Outer Banks with Orville Wright as its pilot and Wilbur alongside the flyer. Four more test flights were completed that day and each flight lasted longer than the last. It is safe to say the Wright Brothers paved the way for aerial innovation.
Fast forward 118 years to present day. NASA has sent the newest Mars-roving robot Perseverance to the Red Planet. Perseverance will preform many firsts on Mars. It will be the first to attempt to produce oxygen with its MOXIE instrument. The rover will be the first to gather Martian samples to bring back to Earth which could possibly make it the first mission to discover life on Mars. Perseverance will also be the first space craft to perform an entirely autonomous landing on another planet. To complete its greatest first, it will need to deploy Ingenuity from its underbelly.
Ingenuity is a four-pound solar powered helicopter. This helicopter will hopefully be the first powered aircraft to operate on another planet. NASA has set a date for this aircraft to take flight on or before April 8th. During its amazing first journey on the new planet, it will have a piece of history along for the ride. Under the solar panel secured by a wire and insulative tape is a stamp sized piece of fabric. This fabric was purchased at Rike-Kumler department store located in downtown Dayton. Ohio. Which later became part of the 1903 Wright Flyer. AKA the world’s first airplane. Orville and Wilbur took many swatches of the worn textile after their historical flight and auctioned them off to help fund their future efforts. NASA located a swatch at the Carillon Historical Park which is home to the Wright Brothers National Museum.
This is not the first time a piece from the 1903 Wright Flyer has made it into space. In July of 1969 late Neil Armstrong carried a piece of the plane to the moon during the Apollo 11 mission. In 1998 late John Glenn (then U.S Senator and former NASA astronaut) flew on the shuttle Discovery with a swatch of the fabric from the plane. Then in 2000 Discovery sent another swatch for a weeklong stay on the International Space Station in celebration of the upcoming 100th anniversary of the flyer and STS-92, the 100th space shuttle mission.
The Wright Brothers would be absolutely amazed to see how far we have come with aviation evolution. Not only did the historic fabric make it to Mars, but it is going to make another history-making flight.