Ingenuity retired after damage to rotor blades

  • After it experienced communication issues that ended a flight abruptly, NASA has retired the Ingenuity helicopter.
  • The retirement comes after one of the helicopter’s rotor blades was damaged.
  • The helicopter’s mission lasted 33 times longer than intended according to NASA.

Last week, NASA’s Martian helicopter Ingenuity experienced a few technical problems. During the helicopter’s 72nd flight, communication with Ingenuity was lost.

While NASA did manage to reestablish communication with Ingenuity, word from the Red Planet wasn’t good. The helicopter remains upright and communication with Earth is fine, but images sent to NASA this week revealed a broken rotor blade.

The rotor was seemingly damaged during the 72nd flight.

Sadly, this renders the tiny historic helicopter unable to fly and as such it’s being retired.

“The historic journey of Ingenuity, the first aircraft on another planet, has come to end,” Bill Nelson, NASA’s administrator announced in a press release. “That remarkable helicopter flew higher and farther than we ever imagined and helped NASA do what we do best – make the impossible, possible. 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.”

After its 72nd flight on Jan. 18 2024, NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter Captured this color image showing the shadow of one of its rotor blades, which was damaged during touchdown. Source: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

Ingenuity’s mission lasted for nearly 1 000 Martian sols, over 33 times longer than originally planned. During this time it lived through dust storms, and navigated complex terrain that was used as an airfield. All of this while also dealing with a dead sensor.

“It’s humbling Ingenuity not only carries onboard a swatch from the original Wright Flyer, but also this helicopter followed in its footsteps and proved flight is possible on another world,” said Ingenuity’s project manager, Teddy Tzanetos of NASA JPL. “The Mars helicopter would have never flown once, much less 72 times, if it were not for the passion and dedication of the Ingenuity and Perseverance teams. History’s first Mars helicopter will leave behind an indelible mark on the future of space exploration and will inspire fleets of aircraft on Mars – and other worlds – for decades to come.”

As Ingenuity remains operational from a communications standpoint, NASA will download the remaining imagery and data from the helicopter’s onboard memory. The team on the ground will also perform final tests of Ingenuity’s systems.

Sadly, Perseverance is too far to capture an image of Ingenuity’s final resting place so we likely won’t get a final shot of Ingenuity.

That’s one more visitor from Earth doomed to decay on the Martian surface.


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