Say goodbye to the little helicopter that can

Say goodbye to the little helicopter that can

Hello and welcome back to TechCrunch Space. Last week, NASA held its annual day of remembrance for all those who lost their lives in the pursuit of human space exploration — including the Apollo 1, Challenger and Columbia crews. This day is a sobering reminder of the dangers of spaceflight and the high costs we have paid to expand humanity to the stars. More on that below.

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The small Ingenuity helicopter, which has been flying around the Red Planet for nearly three years, made its final flight late last week. At least one of the helicopter’s carbon-fiber rotor blades was damaged during its latest mission, grounding it forever, NASA announced Thursday.

To say that Ingenuity has been a remarkable success is a bit of an exaggeration: the helicopter was launched as a test mission for the technology, with engineers hoping to achieve up to five flights using the vehicle. In the end, the helicopter performed an astonishing 72 flights, collectively covering 11 miles and climbing up to 79 feet at the highest altitude.

Goodbye, genius. Thanks for everything.

NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter takes a flight on Mars. Image credits: NASA

Release highlights

The most important launch of the week goes to Virgin Galactic, which successfully launched its 11th suborbital spaceflight on Friday. The company’s VSS Unity plane took off from Spaceport America in New Mexico carrying four private astronaut agents, whose names were mysteriously not revealed before the mission. After the mission ended, Virgin announced the names of the customers and revealed that the crew included the first Ukrainian woman to go into space.

The company’s next mission is expected to be in the second quarter of this year.

Eric Berger tells what happened after astronaut Taylor Wang ran into problems in his experiment aboard the International Space Station; How he became severely depressed; how he threatened mission controllers in Houston not to “return” to Earth; And how he began to show an unnerving interest in the space shuttle hatch, so much so that other astronauts aboard the International Space Station sealed it with duct tape.

“This isn’t a particularly fun issue to talk about, so NASA and SpaceX and people who travel on vehicles generally don’t do that. But it seems like something the space community should be having a discussion about as access to space expands.” With Crew Dragon, SpaceX regularly sends In the not-too-distant future, Boeing’s Starliners, SpaceX’s Starship, and other vehicles will only To deepen orbital aircraft portfolio Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic already fly people almost entirely without training for short suborbital hops.

This is not necessarily a bad thing. The whole point of getting to space at a lower cost is that we will have more people in space, doing cool things, and pushing the boundaries. But space is an incredibly harsh and forbidding domain. “She can play with the mind.”

Taylor Wang aboard the space shuttle. Image credits: NASA

This week in space history

This week we remember the men and women who lost their lives aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger, as well as other astronauts who died during spaceflight.

On January 28, 1986, the space shuttle Challenger exploded just 73 seconds after liftoff, killing all seven crew members. The disaster led to the suspension of Space Shuttle missions for nearly three years and subsequent investigations identified a myriad of problems within NASA’s culture that indirectly or directly led to the disaster.

Space Shuttle Challenger crew. Image credits: NASA

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