The Mars helicopter Ingenuity will never take off again — it damaged one of the blades and NASA ended its mission

The mission of the Mars helicopter Ingenuity of the American aerospace agency NASA has come to an end. The first rotorcraft in history to take off in the atmosphere of an alien planet suffered blade damage during its last flight, which took place on January 18, 2024. In a statement published on January 25 on its official website, NASA said that the device was “no longer able to fly.”

Image source: Space.com

“The historic adventure of Ingenuity, the first flying machine on another planet, has come to an end.. This amazing helicopter flew higher and further than we ever imagined and helped NASA make the impossible possible.. Missions like Ingenuity allow NASA to pave the way for future spaceflight, and also better prepare for future human exploration of Mars and other objects in the inner solar system,” said Bill Nelson, head of the NASA aerospace agency, in a commentary.

The shadow of Ingenuity's damaged blade after its 72nd flight over Mars on January 18, 2024. Image source: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

The Ingenuity helicopter was delivered to the surface of the Martian crater Jezero along with NASA's Perseverance rover in February 2021. The main task of the rotorcraft weighing 1.8 kg was to demonstrate the possibility of using such machines in the rarefied Martian atmosphere. And he successfully proved this during the first five flights in the spring of that year.. After this, NASA decided to extend the Ingenuity mission and use the helicopter as a reconnaissance vehicle for the Perseverance rover, which arrived on the planet to search for traces of ancient Martian life and collect samples of Martian soil.. During the extended mission, the helicopter made 67 more flights, significantly exceeding any expectations of the mission's scientists and engineers.

Although the bulk of Ingenuity's mission was only scheduled to last 30 days, the helicopter continued to operate on Mars for nearly three years.. In total, over 72 missions, it spent 129 minutes in the atmosphere of the Red Planet and covered a distance of 11 miles (17.7 km) above the surface.

Unfortunately, Ingenuity encountered problems on its last flight on January 18th. Just before the landing of the device, “ communication was temporarily lost between Perseverance and the helicopter ,” NASA said in a statement. The command center on Earth was subsequently able to restore communication with the flying machine, but photographs of the device received on January 18 showed that one or more of its four blades “ were damaged during landing ,” the aerospace agency later reported.

Although Ingenuity's mission has come to an end, it has certainly etched its name in the space exploration history books and opened the door to potential new exploration missions using similar rotorcraft in the atmospheres of other planets.