NASA’s Mars Helicopter Will Do a ‘Wiggle’ Test After Fatal Malfunction

NASA’s Mars Helicopter Will Do a ‘Wiggle’ Test After Fatal Malfunction

It’s been a week since NASA announced the end of its Mars helicopter mission, and we’re still not over losing our beloved Ginny. But apparently, neither is NASA, as the space agency is still trying to figure out what happened during Ingenuity’s last flight on Mars.

During a livestream held on Wednesday to pay tribute to the Ingenuity helicopter, NASA announced that the mission team will rotate Ingenuity’s blades and give them a little “wiggle” to adjust their angle in order to try and determine the extent of the damage, first reported. The space agency also revealed that all four of Ingenuity’s blades were damaged during the helicopter’s fatal 72nd landing on the Red Planet.

Teams at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory are still not sure what caused the damage to the helicopter’s blades. Ingenuity’s power may have dipped during its landing, or it may have struck the ground, resulting in a drop of voltage, according to Teddy Tzanetos, Ingenuity Project Manager.

Ingenuity landed on Mars along with the Perseverance rover in February 2021. The tiny chopper was originally designed to perform just five test flights over 30 days but ended up exceeding all expectations, logging in an impressive 72 flights and flying 14 times farther than planned. It racked up a total flight time of two hours.

Unfortunately, during flight 72 on January 18, Ingenuity lost contact with the Perseverance rover, which it relies on to relay its communications to Earth. When communication was reestablished the next day, NASA made the heartbreaking discovery that its Mars helicopter would not be able to fly again after an image revealed damage to its blades.

Related article: After Ingenuity: Bigger, Bolder Aircraft for Exploring Aliens Worlds

The 19-inch tall, 4-pound helicopter is the first powered aircraft to lift off from the surface of another planet, and it has paved the way for future exploration of other worlds using helicopters. Ingenuity also became a helpful sidekick for Perseverance, hovering above and guiding the rover along the Martian terrain.

“We couldn’t be prouder or happier with how our little baby has done,” Tzanetos said during the livestream.

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