© 2021 WYSO
Our Community. Our Nation. Our World.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
Local and Statewide News

Commentary: The Imagination Of The Wright Brothers Goes To Mars

Members of the NASA Mars Helicopter team inspect the flight model (the actual vehicle going to the Red Planet), inside the Space Simulator, a 25-foot-wide (7.62-meter-wide) vacuum chamber at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, on Feb. 1, 2019.
NASA/JPL-Caltech
/
Members of the NASA Mars Helicopter team inspect the flight model, inside the Space Simulator, a 25-foot-wide vacuum chamber at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, on Feb. 1, 2019.

NASA let us know, after Perseverance had landed on Mars, that a small piece of fabric from the Wright brothers’ 1903 Flyer has made the journey too -- and is attached to a small helicopter which is going to fly over the Martian surface maybe as soon as this weekend. Aviation commentator Dan Patterson has some thoughts.

Who could have imagined that an artifact from Dayton and the Wright brothers would end up on Mars?

But weren’t the earliest days of flying the results of imagining?

1903 Wright Flyer
Dan Patterson
A small piece of fabric from the Wright brothers 1903 Flyer is currently on Mars, attached to Ingenuity, the small helicopter which is going to fly over the Martian surface.

Orville and Wilbur Wright were blessed with pretty good imaginations. Their dreams became reality, and the aerial age is the result.

The flights they made at Kitty Hawk in 1903 fulfilled their imagination that manned powered flight was possible. Imagine what their conversations were on the long train ride home for Christmas: What was going to be on the table for Christmas dinner? What's on those glass plates in the camera case? What are we gonna do next?

Now 118 years later, we know what happened next. The aerial age took off and imaginations all over the world soared into outer space. In 1969 Neil Armstrong, from Wapakoneta, Ohio, stepped onto the moon, just 66 years since the first flight. Armstrong took a few bits of the 1903 Flyer with him on that mission. Two decades after that another Ohioan, John Glenn took a few bits of the Flyer with him when he flew on the Space Shuttle.

In 2016 when the pioneering aircraft, the Solar Impulse, circled the globe using solar power to drive the electric motors, the pilots Bertrand Picard and Andre Borschberg chose to stop in Dayton to pay homage to Orville and Wilbur Wright.

Solar Impluse at rest 1.jpeg
Dan Patterson
Pioneering aircraft the Solar Impulse made a stop in Dayton to pay homage to Wilbur and Orville Wright.

The Wrights turned imagination into reality here in Dayton. So did some local contemporary organizations who were a part of the team that put Perseverance on Mars.

Dysinger Incorporated, a precision machining company reflecting the grand Dayton tradition of precise machine tooling, which precedes the aerial age, made essential parts for the space craft now on Mars. David Dysinger, owner of the company marveled that he held those parts in his hand and now they're millions of miles away.

The University of Dayton Research Institute developed a power system for the Mars vehicle. "The Multi-Mission Radioisotope Generator attached to Perseverance is the lifeblood of the rover,” said Chad Barklay, who also helped develop the MMRTG that continues to power earlier American probes to Mars.

I imagine that they are pretty happy!

WrightProp.jpeg
Dan Patterson
The Wright Brothers realized that propellor rotation creates thrust, and that thrust will lift an aircraft.

When the small helicopter named Ingenuity flies above the Martian surface, it will prove the ingenuity of the Wrights again by focusing attention on the propeller. The Wrights were the first to realize that an aviation propeller is a rotating airfoil, and that rotation creates thrust, and that thrust will lift the helicopter above the surface of Mars.

Imagine that the postage stamp sized piece of cloth attached to Ingenuity carries the DNA of the men from Dayton who constructed and flew the 1903 Flyer. It also carries the water stains of the 1913 Dayton Flood, which gave the cloth the color it has. Imagine if you will, an interstellar galactic traveler who comes across the tiny craft and connects with a Vulcan mind meld and can interpret all that information in an instant.

Just imagine if they can understand, from that small piece of cloth, all of the accumulated knowledge Orville and Wilbur had in their heads and from the flood water, all the accumulated geographical history of the southwestern Ohio region of the United States, which is on the North American continent on the plant earth.

Well I don’t know about you, but I think imagination is pretty cool.

Live long and prosper!