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“It’s like Al Capone’s safe,” Hyde remarked after Museum restoration specialist Karl Heinzel removed the engine’s cover to give Cone access. It was the first time the engine had been uncovered since 1911, the year the Signal Corps transferred the airplane to the Smithsonian.

Cone shone a flashlight on the innards of the little 4-cylinder engine resting on a wooden engine mount on the biplane’s lower wing. He looked like an archaeologist peering into a pharoah’s tomb.

“They [the Wrights] knew how to get the most work done with the least amount of weight,” he marveled. Pointing to the sheet metal cover lying nearby (it encloses the engine to keep dirt out and oil in), he said, “That’s typical Wright practice. It’s about as thick as a piece of tin foil.”

The Wright Experience owns three engines manufactured for the first Wright aircraft that went into general production, the 1911 Model B. (About 125 engines were produced.) For the 1908 reproduction, Cone has created an engine casing with the help of a Baltimore, Maryland foundry, using the same casting process the Wrights’ suppliers used. The Model B casing is about the same size as the one on the 1908 engine, but there are significant differences. The earlier engine has a longer drive shaft, Cone learned from measuring the engine in the Museum, and an entirely different ignition system.

ASA’s experimental Martian helicopter holds a small swatch of fabric from the 1903 Wright Flyer, the space agency revealed Tuesday. The helicopter, named Ingenuity, hitched a ride to the red planet with the Perseverance rover, arriving last month.

Ingenuity will attempt the first powered, controlled flight on another planet no sooner than April 8. It will mark a “Wright brothers’ moment,” noted Bobby Braun, director for planetary science at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

The Carillon Historical Park in Dayton, Ohio, the Wrights’ hometown, donated the postage-size piece of muslin from the plane’s bottom left wing, at NASA’s request.

The swatch made the 300 million-mile journey to Mars with the blessing of the Wright brothers’ great-grandniece and great-grandnephew, said park curator Steve Lucht.

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“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 barely one quarter of a mile, is going to soar into history again on Mars!” Amanda Wright Lane and Stephen Wright said in a statement provided by the park.

Orville Wright was on board for the world’s first powered, controlled flight on Dec. 17, 1903, at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. The brothers took turns, making four flights that day.

A fragment of Wright Flyer wood and fabric flew to the moon with Apollo 11’s Neil Armstrong in 1969. A swatch also accompanied John Glenn into orbit aboard space shuttle Discovery in 1998. Both astronauts were from Ohio.



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