The Ingenuity helicopter, which became the first flight-capable machine operated outside our planet, has finally arrived. NASA brought the sad news at the end of January 2024 and confirmed that the helicopter’s seventy-second flight had become fatal. However, as reported by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, there were many more flights than planned in the finale, so the end of the Ingenuity mission is rather a bittersweet event, given how the helicopter has served humanity.
On the subject: The Ingenuity helicopter has finally flown by Mars. NASA released the first video
As mentioned above, the helicopter was irreversibly damaged during its 72nd launch from the surface of the red planet. The machine was forced to make an emergency landing when it lost contact with the Perserverance vehicle, but unfortunately when the machine was three meters above the ground. A fall from this height is nothing that does any good to fragile electronics and moving parts, and as NASA later found out, the fall took away at least one, but probably more, of the individual rotor blades. That’s why the helicopter can no longer take off, although according to NASA it is still able to communicate with Earth and is in a position ready for another potential launch.
However, the way NASA found out about the damage is curious. Ingenuity is not capable of taking pictures of itself, as rovers usually are. Only the good old Sun and the shadows cast by the rotor blades helped to identify the problem. In images taken on Jan. 18 and released by NASA a few days later, the shadow clearly shows that the end of one of the leaves hit the Martian surface and split. In other images, which also appeared in the form of a short video on Twitter, it is then possible to trace similar damage on another leaf.
More than anyone could imagine
While no one will be celebrating the end of the Ingenuity mission, NASA is proud of what it accomplished with the machine. Originally, the helicopter was only designed as a technological demonstration of human capabilities with a plan to make five short takeoffs. In the end, however, Ingenuity worked on Mars for almost three years, launched many times more, and sent fascinating photos to Earth from a height from which we could not yet observe Mars. “The historic journey of Ingenuity, the first flying machine on another planet, is over,” then NASA administrator Bill Nelson said goodbye. “This remarkable helicopter has flown higher and further than we ever imagined, helping NASA do what we do best – make the impossible possible.” Nelson concluded.
Source: NASA, Space
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