Fabric from first Wright Flyer on Mars

A piece of fabric from the Wright brothers’ 1903 Kitty Hawk Flyer is making history, stowed aboard the Ingenuity, NASA’s small helicopter on Mars.

The piece of fabric was provided by Carillon Historical Park in Dayton, Ohio, home to the Wright Brothers National Museum and the world’s largest repository of three-dimensional Wright Family artifacts.

In 2019, NASA contacted Dayton officials to explore a way the Wright brothers could be a part of the first flight on another planet. They needed something that would not add much weight to the helicopter, which needed to weigh less than four pounds. The fabric was the best choice, according to officials with Carillon Historical Park and the Wright family.

An illustration of NASA’s Ingenuity Helicopter flying on Mars. (Photo by NASA/JPL-Caltech)

“Carillon Historical Park is delighted to play a small part in this momentous occasion,” said Brady Kress, president. “Our mission includes inspiring the world. We hope this partnership with NASA helps do just that – inspiring our world by reaching beyond it.”

In 1903, Wilbur and Orville made the first controlled, sustained flight on Earth of a powered, heavier-than-air, piloted machine. Soon, Ingenuity will be the first heavier-than-air aircraft to make the first powered, controlled, and sustained flight on another world.

NASA is targeting no earlier than April 8, 2021, for the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter to make the first attempt at powered, controlled flight of an aircraft on another planet.

Amanda Wright Lane and Stephen Wright, Wilbur and Orville’s great grand-niece and nephew, spoke for the Wright brothers: “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 flying barely one quarter of a mile, is going to soar into history again on Mars! The NASA Mars Perseverance Team has found a way to coax another 330 million miles out of the original Pride of the West fabric that Wilbur and Orville thought they retired from their Flyer’s broken wings on Dec. 17, 1903.”

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