NASA’s Perseverance rover spots Mars helicopter sitting alone on sand dunes

NASA’s Perseverance rover has spotted its partner, the Ingenuity Mars helicopter, on February 4, 2024, which is sitting alone and hopeless on the Martian sand dunes because it’s no longer capable of flight.

The Perseverance Rover's Mastcam-Z camera spotted the Ingenuity Mars helicopter sitting alone on Martian sand dunes on February 4, 2024
The Perseverance Rover’s Mastcam-Z camera spotted the Ingenuity Mars helicopter sitting alone on Martian sand dunes on February 4, 2024. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU)

The Ingenuity Mars helicopter experienced an anomalous landing on January 18, 2024, during its 72nd flight.

After the 72nd flight on January 18, 2024, the onboard cameras of the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter indicated that one of the rotor blades was damaged due to a rough landing.

Damaged rotor blade of the Ingenuity Mars helicopter
The Ingenuity Mars Helicopter captured the shadow of its damaged rotor blade after the 72nd flight. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech) 

The Perseverance rover didn’t capture the image of its companion helicopter immediately after the rough landing on January 18, 2024, because the rover was out of line of sight with Ingenuity during that time.

The Perseverance Rover's Mastcam-Z camera spotted the Ingenuity Mars helicopter sitting alone on Martian sand dunes on February 4, 2024 (full image)
The Perseverance Rover’s Mastcam-Z camera spotted the Ingenuity Mars helicopter sitting alone on Martian sand dunes on February 4, 2024 (full image). (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU)

During the 72nd flight, the Ingenuity Mars helicopter was on the Chi airfield of the Jezero Crater of Mars. NASA’s JPL (Jet Propulsion Laboratory) team, which manages the Perseverance rover and Ingenuity helicopter, believes that the sandy, relatively featureless terrain of the Chi airfield was likely the root cause of the anomalous landing.

According to the statement of NASA, “Ingenuity navigates by tracking the relative motion of surface features it sees beneath it, using its black-and-white navigation camera. An algorithm used by the navigation system incorporates the relative motion of features such as rocks, boulders, and ridges into the helicopter’s calculation of position, velocity, and attitude. The more featureless the terrain is, the harder it is for Ingenuity to successfully navigate across it.”

On January 25, 2024, JPL said that the Ingenuity Mars helicopter is no longer capable of flight, and NASA Administrator Bill Nelson announced on the same day, “The historic journey of Ingenuity, the first aircraft on another planet, has come to end.”

The Ingenuity helicopter landed on Mars, attached to the belly of NASA’s Perseverance rover, on February 18, 2021, and first flew in the Martian air on April 19, 2021. Here is the first flight of the Ingenuity helicopter on Mars:

Although the helicopter was designed to perform five experimental test flights in 30 days, it operated for about three years and performed 72 flights.

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Ashim

Ashim Chandra Sarkar founded Space & Telescope in 2022. He holds a M.Sc. in physics and has five years of research experience in optical astronomy. His passion for astronomy inspired him to open this website. He is responsible for the editorial vision of spaceandtelescope.com.

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