NASA announced on Thursday that its Mars robot helicopter, Ingenuity, has completed its final flight on the red planet, ending a groundbreaking mission that exceeded all expectations. After flying dozens of times over the course of three years, the miniature helicopter had to be grounded for good due to a broken rotor blade. Despite its untimely end, Ingenuity made history as the first vehicle to achieve powered and controlled flight on another planet.
The engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Los Angeles originally designed and built Ingenuity as a 30-day technology demonstration with no more than five short flights in mind. However, the helicopter’s capabilities surpassed all expectations, extending the mission far beyond what was planned.
In total, Ingenuity completed 72 flights and flew over 10.5 miles (17 km) across the Martian terrain, 14 times farther than originally anticipated. It spent more than two hours and eight minutes in flight, with its highest altitude recorded at 78.7 feet (24 meters).
The Perseverance rover, which landed on Mars three years ago, carried Ingenuity to the planet’s surface. While Perseverance’s primary mission is to collect surface samples for eventual return to Earth, Ingenuity’s groundbreaking flights have opened up new possibilities for future Mars exploration.
NASA Administrator Bill Nelson described the end of Ingenuity’s mission as “bittersweet.” In a video posted on social media, he praised the helicopter’s resilience and determination, noting that it kept saying, “I think I can, I think I can,” until its final flight. Continue reading here