NASA's Ingenuity Mars Helicopter broken and grounded forever

NASA's pioneering Ingenuity helicopter that surpassed all expectations is grounded forever. One of its rotor blades was damaged during its latest landing and it can longer fly.

Ingenuity's first flight took place in April 2019. It was designed to complete five short flights over 30 days yet took to the air 72 times, flying 14 times farther than planned during a total of two hours in the Martian sky.

"The historic journey of Ingenuity, the first aircraft on another planet, has come to end," said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. "That remarkable helicopter flew higher and farther than we ever imagined and helped NASA do what we do best – make the impossible, possible. 

From NASA:

Ingenuity's team planned for the helicopter to make a short vertical flight on Jan. 18 to determine its location after executing an emergency landing on its previous flight. Data shows that, as planned, the helicopter achieved a maximum altitude of 40 feet (12 meters) and hovered for 4.5 seconds before starting its descent at a velocity of 3.3 feet per second (1 meter per second).

However, about 3 feet (1 meter) above the surface, Ingenuity lost contact with the rover, which serves as a communications relay for the rotorcraft. The following day, communications were reestablished and more information about the flight was relayed to ground controllers at NASA JPL. Imagery revealing damage to the rotor blade arrived several days later. The cause of the communications dropout and the helicopter's orientation at time of touchdown are still being investigated.