NASA's Ingenuity helicopter completes its mission on Mars

The historic NASA helicopter on Mars, ingenuity, has completed its mission on the Red Planet after exceeding expectations and carrying out dozens more flights than planned. Although the helicopter remains in a vertical position and in Communication with controllers on EarthImages of its January 18 flight sent to Earth this week suggest that one or more of these Rotor blades suffered damage during landing and is no longer fit to fly.

This technology demonstrator was designed to conduct five test flights in one month and ended up conducting 72 in three years

Originally designed as a technology demonstration to conduct up to five experimental test flights over a 30-day period, the first aircraft on another world was operated from the surface of Mars for almost three years 72 flights and went more than 14 times further than planned. His total flight time exceeded two hours.

“The historic journey of Ingenuity, the first aircraft on another planet, has come to an end,” the NASA administrator said. Bill Nelson. “This remarkable helicopter flew higher and further than we ever imagined, helping NASA do what we do best: make the impossible possible.” “Through missions like Ingenuity, the agency is paving the way for future flights in our solar system and for smarter and safer human exploration of Mars and beyond.”

Ingenuity landed on Mars February 18, 2021attached to the belly of the rover Endurance from NASA and launched from the surface of Mars for the first time on April 19, demonstrating that controlled, powered flight is possible on Mars.

After four more successful flights, he began a new mission as an operational demonstration, serving as an aerial reconnaissance for the aircraft's scientists and drivers rover Endurance. In 2023, the helicopter conducted two successful flight tests, further expanding the team's knowledge of its aerodynamic limits.

Ingenuity served as an aerial reconnaissance vehicle for the scientists and drivers of the Perseverance rover

“Ingenuity is an example of how we push the boundaries of what is possible every day. “I am incredibly proud of our team behind this historic technological achievement and look forward to seeing what they develop next,” she said. Laurie LeshinDirector of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).

Incident on January 18, 2024

Ingenuity employees had planned for the helicopter to perform a task short vertical flight on Jan. 18 to determine its location after making an emergency landing on its previous flight. The data shows that the helicopter reached a maximum altitude of 12 meters (40 feet) as planned and hovered for 4.5 seconds before beginning its descent at a speed of 1 meter per second (3.3 feet per second).

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However, Ingenuity lost contact with the ship almost a meter above the surface rover, which serves as the helicopter's communication relay. The next day, communications were restored and further information about the flight was relayed to ground controllers at JPL.

A few days later, pictures arrived showing damage to the rotor blade. The cause of the communications failure and the helicopter's orientation at the time of landing are still under investigation.

After its 72nd flight on January 18, 2024, NASA's Ingenuity Mars helicopter captured this color image showing the shadow of one of its rotor blades that was damaged during landing. / NASA/JPL Caltech

Triumphs, challenges

During a long mission that lasted almost a thousand Martian days – more than 33 times longer than originally planned – Ingenuity has been expanded to include the ability to autonomously select landing sites on unstable terrain, repair a broken sensor, clean itself after dust storms, operate from 48 different takeoff and landing sites, and three performing emergency landings and surviving a cold Martian winter.

Designed for spring operations, the small helicopter was unable to power its heaters throughout the night during the coldest winter months, causing the flight computer to freeze and periodically reboot. This Power outages made it necessary for the team to redesign Ingenuity's winter operations so the company could keep flying.

Now that flight operations are complete, the team will conduct final tests on the helicopter's systems and download the remaining images and data to Ingenuity's onboard storage. He rover Perseverance is currently too far away to attempt to capture an image of the helicopter on its final takeoff and landing site.

This helicopter followed in the footsteps of the Wright Flyer (the Wright brothers' first powered flying machine) and showed that otherworldly flight was possible.

Teddy Tzanetos (JPL-NASA)

“It is humbling that Ingenuity not only carries a sample of the original Wright Flyer (the first powered flying machine built by the Wright brothers), but that this helicopter has followed in its footsteps and shown that flying in another world is possible .” highlighted the Ingenuity project manager, Teddy Tzanetosalso from JPL.

“The Mars Helicopter would never have flown once, let alone 72 times, if it were not for the passion and commitment of the Ingenuity and Perseverance teams,” he noted. The first Martian helicopter in history will leave an indelible mark on the future of space exploration will inspire aircraft fleets on Marsand in other worlds, in the decades to come.”

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