NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter, the little drone that is been flying round on the floor of Mars for 3 years, has lastly ended its mission.
During its 72nd flight, the helicopter mysteriously misplaced communication with NASA. When NASA reestablished communication the next day, the company obtained photographs from the drone that indicated one of many rotor blades on the plane was broken.
NASA mentioned throughout a press convention on Thursday that at the very least one of many blades doubtless collided with the Martian floor.
Because communication was misplaced throughout Ingenuity’s descent, the log of what occurred is not out there. In different phrases, we’ll by no means know for sure what occurred, Teddy Tzanetos, Ingenuity undertaking supervisor, mentioned through the press convention.
However, the Ingenuity workforce mentioned it plans to proceed learning the imagery knowledge to study as a lot as it may.
When Ingenuity reached Mars in February 2021, tucked contained in the stomach of the Perseverance rover, NASA engineers weren’t even positive it could survive its first night time, a lot much less make it off the bottom.
Two months later Ingenuity’s first flight, captured by Perseverance within the video under, made historical past. This 4-pound tissue-box-sized drone proved, for the primary time, that aerial exploration was potential on one other planet.
“We can now say that human beings have flown a rotorcraft on another planet,” MiMi Aung, Ingenuity undertaking supervisor, advised the helicopter workforce at NASA mission management as they obtained the primary knowledge from that flight. “We’ve been talking so long about our Wright brothers moment on Mars, and here it is.”
NASA engineers had been thrilled that Ingenuity labored and optimistic that the rotorcraft may make it by its 5 scheduled flights, in all probability crashing on its fifth and most troublesome flight, they mentioned.
Instead, the helicopter survived to finish greater than 70 flights over almost three years.
“It was supposed to be for 30 days,” Tzanetos mentioned through the press convention. “So emotionally, for the last 2.5 years we’ve been prepared for a sprint and then we had to transition to a marathon,” he mentioned, later including that it was at all times at the back of their minds that “Today could be the last day.”
Ingenuity always defied expectations, proving itself to be one in every of NASA’s most spectacular engineering feats but. It survived mid-flight errors and took on new missions, together with surveying land forward of Perseverance.
NASA Administrator Bill Nelson known as the helicopter’s demise “bittersweet.”