NASA announced Thursday that the Mars robotic helicopter Ingenuity, the first vehicle to achieve powered, controlled flight on another world, will be permanently grounded after dozens of flights over three years, far exceeding all expectations. announced the completion of a ground-breaking mission.
The fate of Ingenuity was revealed in images returned to Earth after its 72nd final flight on January 18, showing that part of the tiny whirligig’s twin rotor blades had snapped, rendering it unable to operate any further. NASA officials said the decision was made.
“It’s bittersweet that we have to announce that Ingenuity, the ‘little helicopter that can do it,’ has made its final flight to Mars, even though we kept saying, ‘I think we can do it, we think we can do it.'” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in a video posted to social media.
What was planned as a technology demonstration of no more than five short flights over 30 days exceeded the expectations of the engineers who designed and built the helicopter at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) near Los Angeles. It became.
Ultimately, through ingenuity, it flew over Martian terrain 14 times farther than originally planned, totaling 72 flights totaling more than 2 hours and 8 minutes, and covering a distance of 10.5 miles (17 km). We’ve got you covered. Its highest altitude he measured was 78.7 feet (24 meters).
The rotorcraft was strapped to the belly of NASA’s Perseverance spacecraft and transported to the Red Planet. The rover landed at the bottom of a vast Martian basin called Hereso Crater three years ago on a separate mission, primarily to collect surface samples for eventual return to Earth. .
On April 19, 2021, when a 4-pound (1.8 kg) rotorcraft performed a modest debut takeoff and landing (a 39-second flight) in Mars’ thin atmosphere, it marked a seminal feat of interplanetary aviation. It was praised.
NASA likened Ingenuity’s feat at Hereso to the Wright brothers’ historic first controlled flight of a motorized airplane near Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, in December 1903.
Over time, JPL continued to send the helicopter on increasingly ambitious flights and improved its capabilities.
This end means that the JPL team will begin flying Ingenuity into particularly barren and featureless regions of Mars, with no visible space for air guidance, according to Teddy Tsanetos, JPL’s Ingenuity project manager. It happened after testing the limits of automatic navigation systems that rely on landmarks.
The US space agency said Ingenuity made an “emergency landing” during its penultimate flight on January 6, apparently due to navigational disorientation that caused it to descend more abruptly than planned.
Twelve days later, when JPL controllers attempted to perform a brief vertical flight to locate Ingenuity, data showed Ingenuity rising from the ground, briefly hovering, and then descending. It shows that after it started, it lost contact with the rover, which acts as a communications relay with Earth.
Images sent by the helicopter several days later showed the shadow of a damaged rotor blade, which apparently broke during final touchdown, Tzanetos told reporters.
Engineers believe that guidance difficulties posed by the “bland” terrain Ingenuity was flying over caused a loss of balance, causing the aircraft to suddenly list or move sideways, causing the rotors to touch the ground. Tsanetos said he believes there may have been a collision.
Ingenuity, which resembles a box with four legs and a parasol consisting of rotor blades and solar panels, will spend its final days idle, but as Perseverance moves away, it will not be able to communicate with the rover. It will periodically emit blips of data until it is lost.
Still, NASA officials have hailed Ingenuity’s accomplishment as paving the way for new aerial exploration of other parts of the solar system, including Mars and Saturn’s moon Titan, which they hope will lead to Dragonfly and other parts of the solar system. A rotorcraft called
There were major technical hurdles to building a helicopter to fly on Mars.
Mars has much less gravity to overcome than Earth, but its atmosphere is only 1% denser than Earth’s, making aerodynamic lift particularly difficult. Therefore, Ingenuity was fitted with rotor blades that are larger and spin much faster than those required for similar spacecraft of the same size on Earth.
The small, lightweight vehicles had to withstand bitter cold, with nighttime temperatures dropping to -130 degrees Fahrenheit (-90 degrees Celsius).
NASA said engineers will conduct final tests on Ingenuity and download remaining images from its onboard computer.