NASA video celebrates the Mars helicopter after its final flight

NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter Legacy

NASA’s record-breaking Mars helicopter, Ingenuity, has made its final flight, the space agency confirmed on Thursday.

The plane’s permanent grounding was caused by damage to one of its rotors that occurred during its final flight on Jan. 18, NASA said.

Ingenuity arrived at Mars aboard Perseverance in 2021, touching down in a spectacular landing captured on crystal clear video. A few months later, with a short hover test, the helicopter immediately set a record by becoming the first aircraft to achieve powered and controlled flight on a planet other than Earth.

That’s no mean feat. Mars’ thin atmosphere makes it more difficult for the craft to gain lift, and so much thought had to go into designing the 4-pound, 19-inch-tall helicopter. And there’s also the small matter of creating the technology that allows Ingenuity to fly between certain locations autonomously.

But the team succeeded, creating a design that sent Ingenuity on a wild adventure that lasted 72 flights, far more than the five flights originally planned.

His unexpected longevity allowed him to begin assisting the Perseverance explorer. This is done by using internal cameras to find safe routes for the rover, and also by identifying interesting areas for Perseverance to explore as it searches for evidence of ancient microbial life on the planet.

Unfortunately, a rough landing a few days ago caused irreparable damage to one of the helicopter’s propellers, preventing it from taking to the skies again.

Immediately after breaking the news of Ingenuity’s demise, NASA shared a short video (above) that tells the helicopter’s impressive story while highlighting its legacy.

One member of the Ingenuity mission team commented in the video: “It’s been an incredible journey and I think the most important thing in our lives is being part of it,” while another said, “Of course, there’s that little bit of sadness that, ‘Oh no , it is over.’ It’s kind of the end of an era, but it’s also the beginning of an era.”

Indeed, Ingenuity has inspired NASA engineers to start work on a more advanced version of the craft for future Mars missions. Ingenuity may not be the best helicopter ever to fly on Mars, but that’s only because of its incredible accomplishments.

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