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Groundbreaking $85,000,000 Mars helicopter mission has come to an end

Groundbreaking $85,000,000 Mars helicopter mission has come to an end

The Ingenuity aircraft 'surpassed expectations' on Mars.

It's the end of an era for NASA's little Mars helicopter.

The tiny aircraft named Ingenuity - which only weighed 1.8kg - has flown its last flight.

NASA announced Ingenuity can no longer fly because of rotor blade damage - and as it's all the way on Mars, it's not like an engineer can pop over to fix it.


Ingenuity was small, but it was definitely mighty. The aircraft was only intended to be a short-term tech demo, but ended up logging 72 flights over three years on Mars - racking up two hours of flight time and traveling 11 miles.

It's particularly impressive, because NASA said that's 14 times further than originally planned.

We're sure the space agency is glad it got bang for its buck from Ingenuity, which is said to have cost $85,000,000.

“It’s almost an understatement to say that it has surpassed expectations," said NASA's Lori Glaze.

Ingenuity landed in Mars back in 2021, hitching a ride on NASA's Perseverance rover. It was groundbreaking in showing that powered flight was possible in the thin Martian atmosphere, beaming back images of the planet's surface.


This week, NASA discovered that one or more of its rotor blades suffered damage while landing. It's possible Ingenuity hit the surface, meaning the blades are no longer usable.

Scientists aren't sure why it briefly lost communication with the nearby rover while making its final descent - that will be investigated.

It might be the end for Ingenuity, but it has a powerful legacy - buoyed by the aircraft's success back in 2022, NASA added two mini-helicopters to a future Mars mission.

The demise of Ingenuity comes during a tough month for NASA. Earlier in January, the space agency announced it was delaying its Artemis Moon mission timelines as it works to learn from test flights and improve safety.

The original plan was to get astronauts onto the surface of the Moon in 2025 - the first time since the last Apollo mission in 1972 - but this has now been pushed back to September 2026.

This year was going to see the first scheduled crewed flight of NASA's Orion spacecraft, but the mission has been postponed until at least September 2025.

Featured Image Credit: Nasa/JPL-Caltech/PA