NASA announced its Mars helicopter, Ingenuity, had ended its mission after experiencing an anomaly during its 72nd flight on Jan. 18. Images recovered after the flight showed severe damage to at least one of the aircraft’s rotor blades, making further flights impossible. The damage spelled the end for the small helicopter that made history in 2021, when it became the first aircraft to ever fly on another planet.
What caused the mishap is still unknown, but based on preliminary data, engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) believe that uniform, sandy terrain below may have confused the helicopter’s navigation systems. They think Ingenuity made a quick sideways correction maneuver which either caused one of the blades to strike the ground or a loss of power resulting in a blade strike. Teams are still receiving data from the helicopter that may help them figure out the exact cause of the damage.