It had been several weeks since the NASA Ingenuity helicopter made its last flight on Mars. The 72nd flight turned out to be the last for the brave aircraft, during which one of the blades was damaged, which made it impossible to continue flying. But despite the disappointment, it has been widely recognized that Ingenuity has achieved a lot since arriving on the Red Planet in February 2021.
Ingenuity not only became the first aircraft to make a controlled flight on another planet, but, as explained in a new video released by NASA, it also tested its aerodynamic capabilities by repeatedly breaking its own speed, distance and altitude records.
Speaking from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which controlled the helicopter’s mission, Ingenuity chief engineer Travis Brown discussed some of the record-breaking moments. For example, Ingenuity was originally planned to make only five flights over a 30-day period. But in the end, it made 72 flights during its almost two years on Mars.
After it was proved that the aircraft was capable of performing controlled flight in the rarefied atmosphere of Mars, the team connected it to the Perseverance rover. Thanks to the camera on board Ingenuity, detailed aerial photographs could be obtained, which helped the Perseverance team plan safe and efficient routes for the rover, which explored the Jezero crater in search of evidence of the existence of ancient microbial life.
Brown said that the Ingenuity project really began with the 49th flight, when the helicopter set new speed and altitude records: so it managed to rise 24 meters above the surface and accelerate to 36 km/h.
The team also tested different landing speeds: fast to save energy and slow to reduce landing load. The NASA team even commissioned the vehicle to conduct a first-of-its-kind study of the movement of wind and dust on the planet, which would allow a new look at the Martian atmosphere.
Brown said that everything the Ingenuity team has learned during 72 flights will be applied in the development of a new generation of helicopters designed for Mars and possibly other planets in our Solar System.
Earlier, we reported on how helicopters can map the magnetic field of Mars.
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