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Mission accomplished: Ingenuity, NASA's flying Martian, retires


“What Ingenuity has accomplished is far beyond what we thought possible.&# 8221; It is with these words that Bill Nelson, the big boss of NASA, has just paid tribute to one of the most successful missions of NASA. history of the American space agency. Launched at the same time as the Perseverance rover towards Mars, the small Ingenuity helicopter was originally only supposed to fly five times. Thus demonstrating that it was indeed possible to take flight elsewhere than on Earth.

It's on April 19, almost two months after its arrival on Mars, that the small device will make its first flight. NASA is then experiencing a historic moment, full of emotion. The JPL engineers are savoring every moment of this flight, they know that it may already be the last.

And for good reason, before Ingenuity no aircraft had ever taken flight from another planet. No one therefore knows for sure whether the autonomous navigation system present in the helicopter will work. The distance between Earth and Mars does not allow the device to be directed in real time, so the data arrives one after the other, without any human intervention being possible.

But this April 19, things are going well. A second flight is then scheduled. More ambitious than the previous one. It too will turn out wonderfully. Aside from a few scares, Ingenuity continued its flights without ever encountering a major incident.

For more than two years, the most famous planet will fly above Mars. He will reach an altitude of 24 meters, his record, and will have covered a total of 17 kilometers. But all good things must end. During the 71st flight of the device, NASA detected several problems. Ingenuity must then land urgently.

The head of the MHS (Mars Helicopter Scout) mission Teddy Tzanetos nevertheless makes the decision to launch a 72nd takeoff. During this final flight, communications are suddenly lost with Earth. In Houston, many believe that the landing went wrong and that Ingenuity crashed. But finally, after hours of radio silence, the device comes back to itself.

Unfortunately, NASA's fears were well-founded. In a press conference held this week, Teddy Tzanetos announced that Ingenuity is no longer able to fly. During its last descent towards Martian soil, a blade of the helicopter broke. Although the reasons for this accident are still unclear, Teddy Tzanetos thinks that she came into contact with the ground after a bad calculation of the altitude by the on-board computer.< /p>

According to initial estimates, 25% of one of Ingenuity's two blades would have been broken during the impact. With such damage, it is impossible for the small helicopter to fly again.

A mission that gave ideas

Very proud of the success of this mission, NASA is reportedly designing other devices similar to Ingenuity for future missions. This is particularly the case of the Dragonfly program (dragonfly in French) which targets Saturn's moon, Titan.

According to Teddy Tzanetos, the love story between NASA helicopters and the planet Mars is only just beginning. He is confident that other light aircraft will fly with humans when they arrive on Mars within 10 to 15 years.

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Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116