The Ingenuity Team Downloads the Final Data from the Mars Helicopter. The Mission is Over

Ingenuity Site

I really can’t believe that the Ingenuity helicopter on Mars took its maiden voyage in April 2021. On the 16th April 2024, engineers at NASA have received the final batch of data from the craft which marks the final task of the team. Ingenuity’s work is not over though as it will remain on the surface collecting data. For the engineers at NASA, they have their sights set on Dragonfly, a new helicopter destined for Titan.

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The Mars Science Helicopter Could be an Airborne Geologist on Mars

A model of NASA’s Mars Science Helicopter concept. Credit: NASA.

After over 70 successful flights, a broken rotor ended the remarkable and groundbreaking Ingenuity helicopter mission on Mars. Now, NASA is considering how a larger, more capable helicopter could be an airborne geologist on the Red Planet. For the past several years scientists and engineers have been working on the concept, proposing a six-rotor hexacopter that would be about the size of the Perseverance rover.

Called the Mars Science Helicopter (MSH), it would not only serve as an aerial scout for a future rover, but more importantly, it could also carry up to 5 kg (11 lbs) of science instruments aloft in the thin Martian atmosphere and land in terrain that a rover can’t reach.

A new paper presented at the March 2024 Lunar and Planetary Science Conference outlines the geology work that such a helicopter could accomplish.

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Grabbing Samples from the Surface of Mars

ESA's Sample Return Mission arm

As if the Mars Perseverance Rover and Ingenuity Drone were not exciting enough then the next step in this audacious mission takes it to a whole new level. Mars Sample Return Mission is to follow along, collect and return the samples collected by Perseverance back to Earth. However the status of Mars Sample Return is uncertain as engineers are still working on technology to retrieve the samples. The current challenge is the gripper arm that will collect the samples and stow them safely and securely before transportation without damaging them. 

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Ingenuity Won’t Fly Again Because It’s Missing a Rotor Blade

NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL/CNES/IRAP/Simeon Schmauß

Ingenuity has been the first aerial vehicle on another world. NASA announced the end of the Martian helicopter’s life at the end of its 72nd flight. During the flight there had been a problem on landing and, following the incident a few photos revealed chips in one of the rotor blades but nothing too serious. New images have been revealed that show the craft is missing one of its rotor blades entirely! 

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Perseverance Gives Us One Last Look at the Damaged Ingenuity Helicopter

Image of the final resting place of the Ingenuity helicopter on Mars.
Ingenuity helicopter. Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / ASU / Simeon Schmauß

Well I consider that a success; the first aircraft on another world surpassed all expectations. Ingenuity, the helicopter that has been buzzing around on Mars has finally reached the end of its life after a total of 72 flights on the red planet. In a wonderful piece of computer imagery, Simeon Schmauß took a number of images of Ingeniuty from Perseverance and stiched them together into a mosaic and upscaled to provide a human eye view. 

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Ingenuity Suffers Rotor Damage, Ending the Mission

Ingenuity stood on the surface fo Mars
Ingenuity helicopter

There have been numerous robotic space missions reach the end of their operating life over the years and for a multitude of reasons. Be they catastrophic failure or a scheduled end but I must say one that has recently made me a little sad is the demise of the Ingenuity helicopter on Mars. It sustained damage after its recent flight and can now no longer fly. In a mission that was supposed to complete five flights in 30 days, the plucky little helicopter completed 72 flights over three years! 

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NASA Lost Contact With its Ingenuity Helicopter Briefly, but it's Back

This view of NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter was generated using data collected by the Mastcam-Z instrument aboard the agency’s Perseverance Mars rover on Aug. 2, 2023, the 871st Martian day, or sol, of the mission, one day before the rotorcraft’s 54th flight. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU/MSSS

Imagine remotely flying a drone or small aircraft from a great distance and loosing contact with it during flight. You’d likely assume the worst, that your aircraft was probably laying in a crashed heap in some remote location.

That’s what engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory went through with the beloved Ingenuity helicopter on Mars, millions of miles away. During a recent quick pop-up flight that was supposed to last just 32 seconds, Ingenuity lost communications before it touched back down. The engineers back on Earth had no idea if the little helicopter landed safely or not.

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A Tiny Quadcopter Could Gather Rocks for China’s Sample Return Mission

Mars Ingenuity helicopter on the surface of Mars
Image of the Mars Ingenuity helicopter (Source : NASA)

Space exploration is always changing. Before February 2021 there had never been a human made craft flying around in the atmosphere of another world (other than rocket propelled landers arriving or departing). The Mars Perseverance rover changed that, carrying with it what can only be described as a drone named Ingenuity.  It revolutionised planetary exploration and now, China are getting in on the act with a proposed quadcopter for a Mars sample return mission.

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Ingenuity Sees Perseverance From Above

Where’s Waldo (or Where’s Wally) is a very popular book series for all ages.  One way to make it potentially more interesting is to adapt it to interplanetary exploration by searching for a Martian rover in a picture taken from a Martian helicopter.  Ingenuity took a picture on its eleventh flight that would be a worthy addition to any interplanetary search game – in this image, the goal is to find Perseverance.  

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Long-Range Photo of Ingenuity Taken by Perseverance’s SuperCam Instrument


NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter is a stunning achievement of engineering, design, and, well, ingenuity. The dual-rotor craft can be seen taking off and landing in this remarkable video, taken by the Mastcam-Z, an imager aboard the Perseverance Mars Rover. Mastcam-Z is a tremendous scientific instrument, but this article’s truly outstanding lead image was taken with Perseverance’s SuperCam instrument.

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