NASA announced Thursday, January 25, the end of the mission of its small helicopter on Mars, called Ingenuity, after it damaged at least one of its rotor blades during its last flight.

During its 72nd flight last week, the helicopter reached an altitude of 12 meters, but communication was abruptly interrupted shortly before landing. It was finally able to be restored but NASA teams were able to observe damage to a rotor blade a few days later. “We are investigating the possibility that the blade may have hit the ground,” NASA boss Bill Nelson said in a video.

The helicopter is now “no longer capable of flying,” NASA confirmed in a press release, specifying that the causes of the interruption of communications were still being studied.

Pathfinder of Perseverance

In 2021, Ingenuity became the first powered aircraft to fly on another planet. “What Ingenuity has accomplished is far beyond what we thought possible,” said Bill Nelson. The helicopter “paved the way for future flights in our solar system.”

Ingenuity was originally only scheduled to take off five times, but the mission exceeded all expectations. In total, the helicopter traveled some 17 kilometers and flew to an altitude of 24 meters. He had arrived on Mars with the Perseverance rover, whose mission is to find traces of ancient microbial life on Mars. He was thus able to play the role of aerial scout to help his wheeled companion.

Its longevity is remarkable, especially knowing that it had to survive freezing Martian nights, warming itself thanks to solar panels charging its batteries during the day.