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NASA Retires Overachieving Mars Ingenuity Helicopter

JAN 29, 2024
NASA ended the mission of its Ingenuity helicopter, which has been operating on Mars since it arrived there nearly three years ago.
Will Thomas
Spencer R. Weart Director of Research in History, Policy, and Culture
Ingenuity Flight.jpg

NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter photographed in flight by the Perseverance Mars Rover.

(NASA / JPL-Caltech / ASU / MSSS)

On Jan. 25, NASA ended the mission of its Ingenuity helicopter, which has been operating on Mars since it arrived there nearly three years ago.

Ingenuity cost $80 million to build and accompanied the Perseverance rover as a technology demonstration, with the goal of undertaking five flights over 30 days to test the feasibility of flying in the planet’s extremely thin atmosphere.

After Ingenuity surpassed expectations, NASA extended its mission and incorporated it into Perseverance’s science operations. Surveying the terrain around the rover’s path, Ingenuity ultimately performed 72 flights, flying for a total of more than two hours, before it damaged one of its rotors during its last landing.

The helicopter’s astonishing success has led NASA to integrate similar vehicles into its design for its Mars Sample Return mission.

Ingenuity’s operators at the Jet Propulsion Lab are now performing final tests on its systems and downloading imagery and data from onboard memory before powering it down.

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