NASA’s Mars helicopter, Ingenuity, is grounded for good. But it achieved a lot during its almost three-year adventure on the red planet.
It was only sent as a technology demonstration to see how well it performed in Mars’ super-thin atmosphere. Five flights were planned over 30 days, but Ingenuity ended up taking to the Martian skies an impressive 72 times and became the first aircraft to perform powered, controlled flight on another planet.
Sure, there were a few issues along the way, but they were all fixed by the mission team’s crack engineers based at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California.
But a damaged propellor sustained during the helicopter’s most recent flight earlier this month is something that can’t be resolved with a software update, so Ingenuity’s flying days are well and truly over.
The 4-pound, 19-inch-tall aircraft performed so well that it assisted NASA’s Perseverance rover in its ongoing quest to uncover evidence of ancient microbial life on the red planet. It did this by using its onboard camera to provide aerial imagery that was used to locate areas of interest and also to find safe and efficient routes for the rover as it moved from site to site.
The team also pushed Ingenuity to the limit to see just what it was capable of achieving in the Martian skies.
Here are the key stats obtained from Ingenuity’s official flight log:
Total number of flights: 72
First flight: April 19, 2021 (hover only)
Final flight: January 18, 2024
Total time in the sky: 128.8 minutes
Total distance flown: 11 miles
Fastest speed: 10 meters per second on flights 62, 68, and 69
Furthest flight: 705 meters on flight 69
Highest flight: 24 meters (hover only) on flight 61
Longest time in the air: 169.5 seconds on flight 12
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