The helicopter sustained damage to its rotor blades on January 18 and is no longer capable of flying long-term, the US space agency said.
NASA’s little Ingenuity Mars Helicopter has ended its mission as it is no longer capable of flying.
“It is bittersweet that I must announce that Ingenuity, the little helicopter that could…has now taken its last flight on Mars,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson.
The helicopter first landed on Mars in 2021 and made dozens more flights than expected, the US space agency said.
In its latest flight on January 18, however, one or more of its carbon fibre rotor blades was damaged during landing.
“That remarkable helicopter flew higher and farther than we ever imagined and helped NASA do what we do best – make the impossible, possible,” Nelson added in a statement.
“Through missions like Ingenuity, NASA is paving the way for future flight in our solar system and smarter, safer human exploration to Mars and beyond,” he added.
The helicopter was originally designed to do “up to five experimental test flights over 30 days” but ended up staying on Mars for three years.
It performed 72 flights and flew more than 14 times farther than planned, NASA said.
NASA’s scout on Mars
“That little helicopter could fly in a one per cent atmosphere, not a 100 per cent atmosphere like we have on Earth. It cut through a one per cent atmosphere and was able to fly, and what Ingenuity accomplished far exceeds what we thought possible,” Nelson said.
Ingenuity travelled to Mars attached to NASA’s Perseverance rover and ended up serving as a scout, checking out sites for scientists and rover drivers.
The helicopter made a short vertical flight on January 18 reaching 12 metres and hovering for nearly five seconds before descending. Just one metre above the service, Ingenuity lost contact with the rover, with communications reestablished the following day.
“Imagery revealing damage to the rotor blade arrived several days later. The cause of the communications dropout and the helicopter’s orientation at time of touchdown are still being investigated,” NASA said.
In addition to helping scientists in the search for life on Mars, “Ingenuity has paved the way for future flight in our solar system and it’s leading the way for smarter, safer human missions to Mars and beyond,” Nelson said.