[ View menu ]

A Damaged Rotor Blade Brings the Sudden End of the Ingenuity Mission

Despite their obvious success, the fact that they use nuclear power even though solar is definitely feasible means that I never cared about Curiosity or Perseverance, but things were somewhat different when it came to the little helicopter, Ingenuity. It still wasn’t something that I regularly followed, but it was an interesting concept and an ongoing demonstration of what could be achieved, and after taking 72 flights over close to three years despite having only been designed for five experimental test flights over 30 days, it really seemed like the little helicopter could just keep going, so the announcement that the mission came to a sudden end came as something of a shock. It may be the week’s saddest piece of science news, and possibly the biggest recent disappointment when it comes to space exploration… Not that there haven’t been plenty of other disappointments when it comes to that field, but those tended to be expected, to follow the pattern, while this was so sudden and unexpected.
What’s clear at this point is that at least one of the rotor blades sustained significant damage at the end of flight 72, most likely as a result of a rough landing caused by the relatively featureless terrain that made it particularly difficult for the helicopter to orient itself. So it wasn’t the conditions that caused the problem, and at this point it doesn’t look like it was an actual failure, but simply an accident, which makes it even more disappointing. And what makes it worse is that, by announcing the end of the mission pretty much as soon as they saw the damage, it’s pretty clear that the team has no plans to make some other use of Ingenuity, maybe as some sort of lander, even if its other systems remain operational. Admittedly, Ingenuity has very limited capabilities and it also acted as a scout for Perseverance, identifying potential hazards or interesting targets, so things will now become far trickier and more hazardous for the rover and adapting that mission to the loss of the helicopter may well require the entire team and all of the available resources, so giving up on it so quickly is understandable, if you think about it logically… But that makes it no less disappointing.


No comments

RSS feed Comments | TrackBack URI

Write Comment

Note: Any comments that are not in English will be immediately deleted.

XHTML: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>