NASA's Ingenuity Mars Chopper sends one final message to Earth

“Long goodbye,” NASA said on the social networking site X. (representative)

Washington:

NASA's Ingenuity Mars helicopter has sent its final message to Earth and will now serve as a stationary data-gathering unit on the Red Planet's surface, the US space agency NASA said on Tuesday.

The tissue-box-sized plane made history by achieving the first powered flight on another planet after riding under the belly of the Perseverance rover, which launched for the first time from the surface on April 19, 2021.

“A long goodbye,” NASA said on the social networking site X.

“The Ingenuity team has received its final message from the #MarsHelicopter, which will now serve as a fixed test platform, collecting data that can benefit future explorers of the Red Planet.”

Originally intended only to prove the feasibility of flight in the extremely thin Martian atmosphere through five test runs, Ingenuity has defied all expectations.

It was deployed 72 times, logging more than two hours of flight time in short hops, overcoming dust storms, treacherous terrain, dead sensors and frigid conditions.

Its mission has evolved into an aerial reconnaissance to help its wheeled companion search for signs of ancient microbial life billions of years ago when Mars was wetter and warmer than it is today.

Designed to run in the spring, the solar-powered heating system was not able to stay up through the night in the winter. This froze the flight computer and forced engineers to devise new protocols.

NASA said Monday it is trying to return Mars rocks collected by the Perseverance rover to Earth faster and at a lower cost, as the agency faces mounting criticism for significantly over budget.

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The efforts come as China makes progress toward a simpler mission to return samples to the Red Planet “around 2030,” according to state media, making it the first country to achieve the feat.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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