NASA’s small helicopter on Mars records its final flight
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. –
NASA’s tiny Mars helicopter has flown its final flight.
The space agency announced Thursday that the four-pound (1.8-kilogram) chopper named Ingenuity was unable to fly due to rotor blade damage. While it remains upright and in contact with flight controllers, its $85 million mission is officially over, officials said.
Originally intended as a short-term tech demo, Ingenuity has logged 72 flights over three years on Mars. It accumulated more than two hours of flight time, traveling 11 miles (18 kilometers). That’s more than 14 times farther than planned, according to NASA. It flew up to 79 feet (24 meters) and hit speeds of up to 22.4 mph (36 km/h).
“While we know this day is inevitable, it doesn’t make it any easier” to announce the end of the mission, said NASA’s Lori Glaze. “It’s almost an understatement to say it exceeded expectations.”
Ingenuity is aboard NASA’s Perseverance rover, which will land on Mars in 2021. It serves as a scout for the rover and has proven that powered flight is possible in the thin Martian atmosphere.
Images beamed back this week from its last flight show that one or more of its rotor blades were damaged during landing and may have hit the surface. The blades are no longer functional, according to NASA.
New pictures confirm the #MarsHelicopter sustained rotor damage during Flight 72. Our helicopter has flown its final flight.
— NASA JPL (@NASAJPL) January 25, 2024
The helicopter climbed to 40 feet (12 meters) on its last flight last week, hovering for a few seconds before descending. It mysteriously lost contact with a nearby rover — its communication relay — while three feet (one meter) off the ground. When communication was restored, the damage was confirmed. The cause of the loss of communication is being investigated.
Ingenuity’s success prompted NASA in 2022 to add two mini helicopters to its future Mars mission.
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