When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Here’s how it works.

Farewell Ingenuity: NASA's pioneering Mars helicopter officially ends its mission damaged

Graphic illustration of Ingenuitys flight on Mars

The mission of Ingenuity – NASA’s technology demonstrator that arrived on Mars with the rover Perseverance – is officially over, the agency announced on Thursday.

The announcements came just a few days after the vehicle temporarily lost communication with the Perseverance rover which serves as a relay for NASA engineers to communicate with Ingenuity.

On January 18, Ingenuity conducted a short vertical flight to an altitude of 12 meters. When coming back after hovering for a few seconds, the rotorcraft lost contact with the rover just three feet above the surface.

A shadow on an image taken from Ingenuitys onboard camera uncovers the damage on one of its rotor bl
A shadow on an image taken from Ingenuity's onboard camera uncovers the damage on one of its rotor blades.

The communication was successfully reestablished the following day and NASA engineers started investigating the incident. The cause of the communication loss is still yet to be identified. In the meantime, however, it turned out that one of two carbon-fiber rotor blades suffered damage, barring the aircraft from future flights.

Ingenuity served on the surface of Mars and its thin atmosphere – with a density of just 1% compared to the conditions on Earth’s surface – for almost three years. Its mission was to prove that a propelled, controlled flight of an aircraft in the atmosphere of Mars is possible.

Ultimately, Ingenuity successfully demonstrated the technology, and not just that. Instead of five planned flights, it managed to fly 72 times in total, exceeding expectations by a mile. Therefore, in conclusion, the mission is nothing but a success, as NASA confirms:

“Over an extended mission that lasted for almost 1,000 Martian days, more than 33 times longer than originally planned, Ingenuity was upgraded with the ability to autonomously choose landing sites in treacherous terrain, dealt with a dead sensor, cleaned itself after dust storms, operated from 48 different airfields, performed three emergency landings, and survived a frigid Martian winter.”

Ingenuity is now stationed at its final landing site, out of sight of rover Perseverance. Communication with the rotorcraft is still possible, and while NASA keeps investigating the incident that grounded the aircraft forever, its engineers plan to perform final tests on helicopter systems. Afterward, all remaining imagery and data in Ingenuity’s onboard memory will be downloaded.

Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Report a problem with article
Salesforce logo sign
Next Article

Salesforce to cut 700 jobs in latest wave of tech layoffs

skull and bones
Previous Article

Ubisoft offers teasers for Skull and Bones post-season content; open beta starts Feb. 8

Join the conversation!

Login or Sign Up to read and post a comment.

5 Comments - Add comment