Damage puts end to ground-breaking Mars helicopter mission
Nasa’s Ingenuity Mars helicopter, which made history by accomplishing the inaugural powered flight on another celestial body, has encountered damage that terminates its mission.
Nasa announced in a statement that the aircraft was compelled to execute an “emergency landing,” resulting in harm to its rotors.
Bill Nelson of the space agency remarked that the helicopter, dubbed “the little helicopter that could,” had exceeded the planned number of flights by a significant margin.
Nelson emphasized that Ingenuity had “paved the way for future flight in our Solar System.”
While Ingenuity remains “upright,” photographic evidence reveals damage to “one or more of its rotor blades,” rendering it incapable of flight.
Nasa disclosed that an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the incident is underway.
“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,” stated Mr. Nelson, Nasa’s administrator, in a social media video message.
“That remarkable helicopter flew higher and farther than we ever imagined and helped Nasa do what we do best – make the impossible, possible.”
Ingenuity reached the Red Planet in February 2021 by riding on the belly of the Perseverance rover.
It was meant to be on a short technology demonstration to prove flight was possible in the ultra-thin Martian atmosphere.
The vehicle went on to support Perseverance in its exploration of Jezero Crater by previewing areas of Mars that might be of interest, helping the wheeled robot and its drivers on Earth pick the right path.
Before its mission came to an end on Thursday, Ingenuity performed 72 flights and flew more than 14 times farther than originally planned.
Many will mourn the passing of the plucky chopper but its withdrawal from service has probably come at the right time, the BBC’s science correspondent Jonathan Amos says.
The Perseverance rover is about to undertake some long, fast drives as it seeks to climb up on to the rim of Jezero Crater.
If still functional, Ingenuity would, in all likelihood, have struggled to keep up with Perseverance, or at the very least held up the rover’s exploration.