The Mars helicopter “Ingenuity” can no longer fly. Images sent to Earth this week show that one or more rotor blades of the mini helicopter were damaged during a landing, the US space agency Nasa said.

“Ingenuity” is still standing upright and can communicate with the control center on earth – but the helicopter can no longer fly. The helicopter’s mission, which was originally only intended to last 30 days, is now over after around three years on Mars, it was said.

Helicopter completed 72 flights

“The historic journey of Ingenuity, the first aircraft on another planet, has come to an end,” said NASA CEO Bill Nelson. “This remarkable helicopter has flown higher and further than we could ever imagine, helping NASA do what we do best – make the impossible possible.”

Ingenuity landed on Mars in February 2021 with the Perseverance rover, which has since been searching for traces of ancient microbial life on the planet and researching the planet’s climate and geology. Shortly after landing, the helicopter, powered by lithium-ion batteries and weighing around 1.8 kilograms, became the first aircraft to complete a flight on another planet. The helicopter completed a total of 72 flights with a total flight time of more than two hours.

For its very first flight, the mini helicopter lifted off from the surface of Mars at 6:34 a.m. CEST in April 2021, rose to a height of about three meters and then hovered for about 30 seconds before landing again. In total, the flight lasted 39.1 seconds. NASA scientists then continued to design new flight routes for “Ingenuity”.

Extreme conditions on Mars

The helicopter had to withstand extreme conditions on Mars: At night it is as cold as minus 90 degrees Celsius, which can easily mean a death sentence for batteries and electronics. Because of the thin atmosphere, which is roughly only one percent as dense as that on Earth, Ingenuity’s rotors had to accelerate to 2,537 revolutions per minute – many times more than helicopters on Earth. “Ingenuity” drew the energy for this effort from its battery, which was fed by solar rays.

Even if “Ingenuity” can no longer fly, the helicopter will influence the future of space travel, said NASA manager Teddy Tzanetos. “The first Mars helicopter in history will shape the future of space exploration and inspire fleets of aircraft on Mars – and other worlds – for decades to come.”