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Ingenuity's Last Flight
Hugh Bollinger

Ingenuity's Last Flight

Ingenuity helicopter on Mars, 8-2-2023 (credit: JPL/NASA)

The Ingenuity helicopter has taken its last flight on Mars. The little copter was originally designed as a technology demonstration and programmed to only last for five test flights.

According to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, the helicopter showed that controlled flight was possible on another planet, not unlike the flight the Wright brothers took here on Earth at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina in 1903. It was the first aircraft to fly on another planet and operated for nearly three years flying more than 14 times farther than originally planned while logging more than two hours of successful flight time. Ingenuity concluded its operations on Mars having conducted 72 successful flights scouting across the Martian surface.

The folded helicopter landed on Mars attached to the Perseverance rover in February 2021 and took its first flight in April. After completing the original five planned flights, the robotically controlled flyer was given a second operational mission to be a scout for Perseverance, the Mars researchers, and the rover's test drivers. In 2023, it successfully completed two flight tests that further expanded the knowledge of JPL's team about its aerodynamic capabilities and limitations in the super-thin Martian atmosphere. While descending from its last flight, it appears one of Ingenutiy's carbon-fiber rotors was damaged.

NASA's administrator congratulated the entire JPL team for such a pioneering effort demonstrating a new exploration technology and the results gained from their little scouting flyer. WHB

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