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NASA Ends Martian Helicopter Mission

Fri 26 Jan 2024 | 10:52 PM
NASA's Ingenuity Helicopter
NASA's Ingenuity Helicopter
Rana Atef

On Thursday, NASA announced the end of its Martian helicopter mission, Ingenuity, after completing 72 historic flights on the Red Planet over three years.

Ingenuity started its operations in April 2021 to become the first aircraft to operate and fly on another planet.

Ending the mission came after the latest Imagery and data showed that one or more of the chopper’s carbon fiber rotor blades of the small device was damaged while landing during its final flight on January 18. 

The team highlighted that the helicopter will not be able to conduct any flights, according to the space agency.

Ingenuity, which traveled to Mars as the Perseverance rover's companion, was designed to fly over the surface of the Red Planet to explore and scan it. It was expected that the small Martian helicopter could carry out five flights, however, its abilities exceeded the expectations of the experts and successfully captured interesting images of the planet.

Together, the rover and its helicopter spent the majority of their time on Mars in the past few years in Jezero Crater where Perseverance collected Martian samples. 

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

Apart from achieving the first Wright brothers moment on another planet, Ingenuity logged many milestones. It flew 14 times farther and 33 times longer than planned, logging more than 2 hours of flight time.

Laurie Leshin, director of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said in a statement: “Ingenuity is an exemplar of the way we push the boundaries of what’s possible every day. I’m incredibly proud of our team behind this historic technological achievement and eager to see what they’ll invent next.”

On its side, the Perseverance operating team posted on X: "The sols won’t be the same without the Mars Helicopter. Thanks, Ingenuity, for being my partner in exploration from the very beginning."