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Business News/ Science / News/  NASA ends Mars helicopter mission: Ingenuity stops flying after nearly three years of exploration
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NASA ends Mars helicopter mission: Ingenuity stops flying after nearly three years of exploration

NASA's Mars helicopter mission, featuring the miniature robot helicopter Ingenuity, has come to an end after 72 flights and nearly three years of exploration.

FILE PHOTO: Ingenuity Mars Helicopter flies over Mars in an undated illustration provided by Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. NASA/JPL-Caltech/Handout via REUTERS. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Handout via REUTERS)Premium
FILE PHOTO: Ingenuity Mars Helicopter flies over Mars in an undated illustration provided by Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. NASA/JPL-Caltech/Handout via REUTERS. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Handout via REUTERS)

NASA's groundbreaking Mars helicopter mission has ended. It featured the miniature robot helicopter Ingenuity, known for being the first powered aircraft to fly on another planet. NASA Administrator Bill Nelson, in a social media video, shared the news.

"It is bittersweet that I must announce that Ingenuity, the 'little helicopter that could' - and it kept saying, 'I think I can, I think I can' - well, it has now taken its last flight on Mars," Reuters quoted Nelson as saying.

Also Read: ISRO's Vikram lander, Chandrayaan-3 gets pinged by retroreflector from NASA spacecraft

The mission was initially planned for 30 days, however, it was extended nearly three years. Ingenuity's journey involved 72 flights, covering a distance 14 times greater than anticipated. This tiny 1.8-kg solar-powered aircraft began its historic venture in April 2021. It successfully hovered above the Martian surface and demonstrated the potential for new aerial exploration methods across the solar system.

Ingenuity experienced difficulties during its final days; an emergency landing occurred on its penultimate flight. On January 18, subsequent loss of contact with the Perseverance rover happened during its last flight. Ingenuity was just 3 feet above the ground at that time. Contact was re-established, but damage to one of its rotor blades was evident.

Also Read: NASA restores communication with mini-helicopter on Mars

"We're investigating the possibility that the blade struck the ground," Nelson said.

Perseverance, carrying Ingenuity, landed on Mars in February 2021. Ingenuity resembled a box with four legs and a twin-rotor parasol, designed for Mars' thin atmosphere. Its first flight saw it ascend to 10 feet, rotate 96 degrees and land safely. It was a feat likened to the Wright Brothers' 1903 flight.

Also Read: No astronauts on moon until 2026 after NASA delays its Artemis mission. Know why

1,000 Martian days

Ingenuity's early success led to an expanded role. It scouted locations for Perseverance with its onboard camera and endured almost 1,000 Martian days, including harsh winter seasons. 

Engineers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory will conduct final tests and download the remaining images from Ingenuity. Meanwhile, Perseverance is too distant to capture images of Ingenuity's final resting place.

(With Reuters inputs)

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Published: 26 Jan 2024, 07:11 AM IST
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