NASA’s little helicopter on Mars logs its last flight

NASA’s little Mars helicopter has flown its last flight.

The space agency announced the 1.8-kilogram chopper named Ingenuity can no longer fly because of rotor blade damage.

While it remains upright and in contact with flight controllers, its $US85 million ($A129 million) mission is officially over, officials said.

Originally intended as a short-term tech demo, Ingenuity logged 72 flights over three years on Mars.

It accumulated more than two hours of flight time, travelling 18km.

That’s more than 14 times further than planned, according to NASA.

It soared as high as 24 metres and hit speeds of up to 36km/h.

“That remarkable helicopter flew higher and farther than we ever imagined,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in a statement.

Ingenuity hitched a ride on NASA’s Perseverance rover, landing on Mars in 2021.

It ended up serving as a scout for the rover and proved powered flight was possible in the thin Martian atmosphere.

Images beamed back this week from its last flight showed that one or more of its rotor blades suffered damage while landing.

The blades are no longer usable, according to NASA.

The helicopter ascended to 12m on its final flight last week, hovering for a few seconds before descending.

It mysteriously lost contact with the nearby rover – its communication relay – while still 1m off the ground.

Once communication was restored, the damage was confirmed.

The reason for the loss of communication is under investigation.

Ingenuity’s success prompted NASA in 2022 to add two mini helicopters to a future Mars mission.

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