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See images of the broken blade of the NASA helicopter on Mars

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A few weeks ago, NASA ended the flight activities of its Mars helicopter, Ingenuity, after a final landmark flight on the red planet. The final episode of Ingenuity's journey occurred in January, when the helicopter rose to approximately 12 meters high, but made an unplanned landing just 35 seconds later.

Attempts to find Ingenuity

  • A diagnostic attempt, carried out twelve days later, aimed to test the aircraft with a rapid up and down movement.
  • During this test, Ingenuity again reached a height of 12 meters, however, at the end of the flight, communication with the vehicle was lost.
  • Communication with the helicopter was reestablished on January 20th.
  • However, analysis of an image of Ingenuity's shadow revealed that one of its blades had suffered damage, leading NASA to announce the end of its flight activities.
  • This decision sealed Ingenuity's fate, but not before the helicopter demonstrated capabilities that exceeded expectations.

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NASA's Ingenuity helicopter camera records damage caused to one of the vehicle's propellers. Credit: NASA/JPL

During a press conference about the end of the mission, NASA officials expressed that they may never find out precisely what happened in Ingenuity's last flights. However, an important clue was revealed thanks to the Perseverance rover, which not only delivered Ingenuity to the Martian surface but also facilitated communication with Earth.

The missing component

As Perseverance moves away from the helicopter's landing site, intended to explore new areas of scientific interest, it approached Ingenuity for the last time, about 450 meters away.

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Magnified view from NASA's Mars Ingenuity helicopter, captured by the Perseverance rover on February 25, 2024. (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/edited by Steve Spaleta)

At that moment, he captured final images of the helicopter using the SuperCam Remote Micro-Imager. The photos, sent to Earth last Sunday and processed by German design student Simeon Schmauß, revealed remarkable details of Ingenuity and its surroundings in the Neretva Valley, an ancient river passage on Mars.

What surprised the scientists was the clear visualization that one of the rotor blades was completely detached, found about 15 meters away from the vehicle. This piece appears to have come loose before or during landing on the helicopter's last flight attempt.

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NASA's Ingenuity rotor blade, captured by the Perseverance rover on February 25, 2024. (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/edited by Steve Spaleta)

This new data is crucial for the engineers and scientists responsible for Ingenuity, offering valuable insights into the reconstruction of the helicopter's final moments.

Furthermore, the discoveries will significantly contribute to improving the design of future flying vehicles intended for the exploration of Mars and other celestial bodies, ensuring that future missions are even more resilient and successful.



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