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NASA's helicopter on Mars damaged in 'crash' forcing an end to three year mission

Ella Scott

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NASA's helicopter on Mars damaged in 'crash' forcing an end to three year mission

Featured Image Credit: NASA/JPL-CALTECH/MSSS / HANDOUT/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

NASA has been forced to end its Ingenuity project early as the helicopter is now officially stranded on Mars.

The space agency revealed that when it landed on January 18, at least one of its rotors was broken. Therefore, it is unable to complete any more missions in the future.

A statement from NASA claimed that the 1.8kg aircraft had to perform an ‘emergency landing’ on Mars earlier this month after it had unfortunately been damaged.

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The Ingenuity project launched on Mars back in 2021. Credit: NASA
The Ingenuity project launched on Mars back in 2021. Credit: NASA

It’s said that problems first began on the helicopter’s 69th flight due to it venturing into sandy, bland terrain.

However, the 72nd venture proved to be Ingenuity’s last as its robotic navigation system was unable to keep oriented.

It has since been concluded that the vehicle remains ‘upright’ but is ‘no longer capable of flight’.

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NASA administrator Bill Nelson said: "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.

"That remarkable helicopter flew higher and farther than we ever imagined and helped NASA do what we do best - make the impossible, possible.”

The flying contraption has recently sustained damage and is now grounded on Mars. Credit: NASA
The flying contraption has recently sustained damage and is now grounded on Mars. Credit: NASA

He added: “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.”

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Ingenuity was only supposed to be a technology demonstration to prove that flight was possible on the planet.

“On Earth, helicopters can’t fly above 25,000 feet (7,600 meters),” said NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory director, Laurie Leshin.

“On Mars, the atmosphere is so thin that it’s equivalent to Earth’s atmosphere at 80,000 or 90,000 feet (24,000 or 27,000 meters).”

According to NASA, the machine accumulated a fight time of more than two hours and traveled a total of 18 kilometers.

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Announcing the end of the mission, Dr Lori Glaz, Director of NASA's Science Mission Directorate's Planetary Science Division, said: “While we knew this day was inevitable, it doesn’t make it any easier.

“It’s almost an understatement to say that it has surpassed expectations.”

NASA said the robot's effort has 'surpassed expectations'. Credit: NASA
NASA said the robot's effort has 'surpassed expectations'. Credit: NASA

Ingenuity first arrived on the Red Planet back in 2021 on the back of the Perseverance rover and was only expected to complete five flights in total.

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Following the conclusion of the three-year experiment, NASA claims that the communications dropout and the helicopter’s orientation at the time of ‘touchdown’ are ‘still being investigated’.

Project manager Teddy Tzanetos said: “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.

“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.”

He continued to say that the first Mars helicopter will ‘leave behind an indelible mark on the future of space exploration’ and is set to inspire various aircraft heading to the planet in ‘decades to come’.

Topics: Technology, Science, Space, NASA

Ella Scott
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