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After damaging a rotor blade, NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter mission ends on Mars Categorical Occasions

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After finishing 72 historic flights on Mars over three years, NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter mission has ended.

Initially designed as an experiment, Ingenuity turned the primary plane to function and fly on one other world, lifting off on April 19, 2021.

Imagery and information returned to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, confirmed that a number of of the chopper’s carbon fiber rotor blades was broken whereas touchdown throughout its ultimate flight this month. The workforce decided that the helicopter is now not in a position to fly, in accordance with the area company.

Ingenuity, which had traveled to Mars because the Perseverance rover’s trusty sidekick, is sitting upright on the floor of the pink planet, and mission controllers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory have been in a position to keep communications with the rotorcraft.

Perseverance captured a picture of Ingenuity on August 2, 2023, the day earlier than the helicopter’s 54th flight. – NASA/JPL-Caltech

The NASA mission workforce solely anticipated the chopper to hold out 5 check flights in 30 days. After acing its 5 anticipated flights, Ingenuity graduated from its function as an experiment to serving as an aerial scout for the Perseverance rover. The chopper flew over areas of scientific curiosity to seize photos and assist the mission workforce decide Perseverance’s subsequent targets for detailed evaluation. The helicopter carried out its ultimate flight on January 18.

Collectively, the rover and helicopter have spent the previous few years exploring Jezero Crater, the positioning of an historical lake and river delta on Mars. Scientists are hoping that samples collected by Perseverance, which shall be returned to Earth by future missions, may decide whether or not life ever existed on the pink planet.

“The historic journey of Ingenuity, the primary plane on one other planet, has come to finish,” mentioned NASA Administrator Invoice Nelson, in an announcement. “That outstanding helicopter flew larger and farther than we ever imagined and helped NASA do what we do greatest — make the inconceivable, potential. Via missions like Ingenuity, NASA is paving the best way for future flight in our photo voltaic system and smarter, safer human exploration to Mars and past.”

Aside from reaching the primary Wright brothers second on one other planet, Ingenuity logged many milestones. It flew 14 instances farther and 33 instances longer than deliberate, logging greater than 2 hours of flight time.

“At NASA JPL, innovation is on the coronary heart of what we do,” mentioned Laurie Leshin, director of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in an announcement. “Ingenuity is an exemplar of the best way we push the boundaries of what’s potential every single day. I’m extremely happy with our workforce behind this historic technological achievement and wanting to see what they’ll invent subsequent.”

What went flawed

Ingenuity was scheduled to make a brief vertical flight, often known as a hop, on January 18 to assist the mission workforce decide its precise location. The helicopter skilled an emergency touchdown on its earlier flight, flight 71.

Throughout flight 72, Ingenuity rose about 40 ft (12 meters) within the air, hovered for 4.5 seconds and started to descend at 3.3 ft per second (1 meter per second).

However when the chopper was 3 ft (1 meter) above the Martian floor, the mission workforce misplaced communication with Ingenuity as a result of it stopped sending information to the rover. The helicopter depends on Perseverance to function its communications relay as a result of Ingenuity doesn’t have a manner of independently sending or receiving information to Earth.

The helicopter took a photo of the shadow of a rotor blade that shows apparent damage from a rough landing on January 18. - NASA/JPL-Caltech

The helicopter took a photograph of the shadow of a rotor blade that exhibits obvious injury from a tough touchdown on January 18. – NASA/JPL-Caltech

Communications had been restored with Ingenuity the following day, permitting the mission workforce to investigate the flight information and see photos that exposed not less than one broken rotor blade.

The workforce continues to be investigating the reason for the communications blackout and the helicopter’s orientation because it touched down.
It’s potential that one of many blades struck the bottom throughout touchdown, Nelson mentioned.

Now, the workforce will perform some ultimate exams with Ingenuity and obtain the remainder of its information and pictures. At present, the rover is simply too distant from Ingenuity to take photos of the helicopter.

Ingenuity’s legacy

The ending of the mission is “bittersweet,” as Nelson mentioned, however the helicopter surpassed expectations for therefore lengthy. The mission workforce overcame quite a few challenges to maintain Ingenuity flying long gone its anticipated life span.

Over the course of its mission, Ingenuity had a number of software program upgrades to assist it fly over treacherous terrain, cleaned itself up after mud storms, survived the frigid Martian winter, executed three emergency landings, had a lifeless sensor and carried out operations from 48 totally different websites.

Ingenuity’s mission kicked off within the spring, when circumstances are hotter and clearer on Mars. However as Martian winter approached in June 2022 and the mission outlasted its preliminary objectives, Ingenuity didn’t have sufficient energy to maintain itself heated throughout the freezing nights. In consequence, the chopper’s flight pc commonly froze and reset, inflicting a number of “brownouts.”

Ingenuity captured a mesmerizing view of sand ripples during its 70th flight on December 22, 2023. - NASA/JPL-Caltech

Ingenuity captured a mesmerizing view of sand ripples throughout its seventieth flight on December 22, 2023. – NASA/JPL-Caltech

The entire information gathered throughout the prolonged period of Ingenuity’s mission will assist inform future rotorcraft designs to discover Mars and different worlds sooner or later.

“It’s humbling Ingenuity not solely carries onboard a swatch from the unique Wright Flyer, but in addition this helicopter adopted in its footsteps and proved flight is feasible on one other world,” mentioned Teddy Tzanetos, Ingenuity’s venture supervisor at JPL, in an announcement. “The Mars helicopter would have by no means flown as soon as, a lot much less 72 instances, if it weren’t for the fervour and dedication of the Ingenuity and Perseverance groups. Historical past’s first Mars helicopter will go away behind an indelible mark on the way forward for area exploration and can encourage fleets of plane on Mars — and different worlds — for many years to return.”

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