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NASA's Mars helicopter sends its final message

NASA's Mars helicopter sends its final message

(Washington) – The small Ingenuity helicopter sent by NASA to Mars has delivered its final message to Earth and will now serve as a stationary data collection unit on the surface of the red planet, the US space agency announced Tuesday.

In 2021, Ingenuity became the first robot to fly on another planet. Thus, he proved that it is possible to fly in the Martian air with a density equivalent to only 1% of the density of the Earth’s atmosphere.

The helicopter weighs only 1.8 kg and looks like a large drone. In total, he covered about 17 kilometers and flew at an altitude of 24 metres. Its cumulative flight time is more than two hours.

It arrived on Mars in February 2021, with the Perseverance rover playing aerial reconnaissance to help its wheeled companion search for possible signs of ancient microbial life.

“Long goodbye,” NASA wrote on the Red Planet’s social network.

Ingenuity's longevity has been remarkable, especially knowing that it had to survive the frigid Martian nights by warming itself thanks to solar panels that charged its batteries during the day.

The helicopter was originally supposed to take off only five times, but due to its very good performance, the mission was extended until January 2024. It was deployed 72 times in total.

NASA announced Monday that it is looking for ways to return rocks taken from Mars by the Perseverance rover to Earth more quickly and at a lower cost, after criticism of the size of its budget.

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The announcement was made while China's Tianwen-3 mission to return samples from the Red Planet is scheduled to launch around 2030, according to state media, in the context of rivalry between the two powers.