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NASA’s Ingenuity Helicopter mission ends after suffering rotor damage

NASA's history-making Ingenuity Mars Helicopter, the first aircraft on another world that flew on the Red Planet for more than three years, has ended its mission after suffering rotor damage on its last -- the 72nd -- flight.

Washington, Jan 26,2024:  NASA’s history-making Ingenuity Mars Helicopter, the first aircraft on another world that flew on the Red Planet for more than three years, has ended its mission after suffering rotor damage on its last — the 72nd — flight.

Ingenuity landed on the Red Planet in February 2021 attached to the belly of NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover and it also marked the two-year anniversary of its first flight, which took place on April 19, 2021.

Originally tasked with only five test flights to prove its “pioneering” technology over 30 days, Ingenuity helicopter exceeded all expectations.

On January 18, Ingenuity executed its 72nd flight at the Red Planet, where its rotor blades suffered damage, rendering it incapable to fly anymore. While it achieved a maximum altitude of 40 feet, there was an unexpected communication dropout before touchdown, which was later re-established.

“While the helicopter remains upright and in communication with ground controllers, imagery of its January 18 flight sent to Earth this week indicates one or more of its rotor blades sustained damage during landing, and it is no longer capable of flight,” NASA said in a statement.

Ingenuity performed 72 flights and flew more than 14 times farther than planned while logging more than two hours of total flight time.

“The historic journey of Ingenuity, the first aircraft on another planet, has come to end,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson, in the statement.

“That remarkable helicopter flew higher and farther than we ever imagined and helped NASA do what we do best — make the impossible, possible. Through missions like Ingenuity, NASA is paving the way for future flight in our solar system and smarter, safer human exploration to Mars and beyond,” he added.

The 1.8 kilograms chopper was tasked with demonstrating that powered flight is indeed possible on Mars despite the planet’s thin atmosphere.

During its extended mission, the rotorcraft served as a scout for the life-hunting, sample-collecting Perseverance.

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