The robot rotorcraft was carried to the red planet strapped to the belly of NASA's Mars rover Perseverance, a mobile astrobiology lab that touched down on February 18 in Jezero Crater after a almost seven-month journey through space.
The drone, called Ingenuity, was airborne for less than a minute, but Nasa is celebrating what represents the first powered, controlled flight by an aircraft on another world.
The planned flight was delayed for a week by a technical glitch during a test spin of the aircraft's rotors on April 9.
You won't be able to watch the flight in real time - NASA can't livestream from another planet - but video of and from the flight will likely become available soon afterward.
It takes at least eight minutes for a signal from Mars to travel to Earth, and vice versa. Ingenuity is flying in conditions unlike any possible on Earth - the gravity on Mars is only one-third as strong as Earth's, and the air is extremely thin, at just one percent the density of our own.
Later, once its batteries have charged up again, Ingenuity will transmit another photo - in colour, of the Martian horizon, taken with a different camera. An unexpectedly strong wind gust is one potential peril that could spoil the flight. So although it was the dead of night in Pasadena, California, a team of NASA engineers was wide awake, waiting to hear from the helicopter.
"Ingenuity is the latest in a long and storied tradition of NASA projects achieving a space exploration goal once thought impossible", said acting NASA Administrator Steve Jurczyk in a press statement.
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"I'm sure we're all going to be pretty on edge", Josh Ravich, the mechanical lead for the Ingenuity team at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, told Insider. "Even rocky terrain is fairly inaccessible to the rovers but much more easily accessed by a rotorcraft".
NASA has allocated a month of the rover mission to testing the helicopter's capabilities.
"Instead of a large rover carrying a small helicopter, imagine maybe a large helicopter carrying a small rover in the future", Ravich said. In the distant future, they might even help astronauts explore Mars.
"There will be surprises, and you will be learning about them right at the same time that we will". Each of those flights would be increasingly hard, with the drone venturing higher and farther each time.
But if all goes well, Ingenuity's fifth and final venture could take it up to 15 feet high and out over 980 feet of Martian ground.
The solar-powered whirligig's debut on the Red Planet marked a 21st-century Wright Brothers moment for NASA, which said success could pave the way for new modes of exploration on Marsand other destinations in the solar system, such as Venus and Saturn's moon Titan. "The lifetime will be determined by how well it lands, pretty much".
The chopper has no scientific objective - engineers just want to know if they've managed to take flight on Mars. The worst-case scenario, Ravich said, would have been if Ingenuity didn't fly at all.