Home Science NASA contacts Ingenuity Mars helicopter after two-month silence

NASA contacts Ingenuity Mars helicopter after two-month silence

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NASA contacts Ingenuity Mars helicopter after two-month silence

After over two months of silence, NASA has been able to reestablish contact with its wayward Ingenuity robotic helicopter on Mars after radio transmissions were blocked by a hill. This marks what is now the official end of flight 52.

Ingenuity is one of space exploration’s more remarkable success stories. Making its first flight over three years ago, it was only expected to last 30 days at most, and its purpose was simply to show that it was possible to build a helicopter that could fly on the Red Planet. If it managed to stand upright, survive a couple of Martian nights, and complete a single liftoff and landing, NASA’s engineers would have been happy, but now it has flown 52 times and is used routinely as a way to scout destinations for the Perseverance rover to visit.

Perseverance is absolutely essential to Ingenuity. The robotic explorer brought the helicopter to Mars, deployed it on the surface, and it now acts as the radio relay between Ingenuity and mission control at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. This relay function is the reason why contact was lost on April 26, 2023. Ingenuity ended its last flight by landing behind a hill, cutting off the line-of-sight transmission line between the two machines.

Ingenuity snapping an image of its own shadow


Now that Perseverance has rolled – slowly – over the hill, communications were restored on June 28, confirming that the 1,191-ft (363-m), 139-second-long flight during which it took images of the surface was successful and Ingenuity is still intact and healthy.

According to NASA, the data stored on the micro-aircraft has been recovered and plans are underway for flight 53 in a couple weeks’ time, if its system checks are green. The next flight will be to an interim airfield to the west from which it will take off to explore a rocky outcropping in the vicinity.

“The portion of Jezero Crater the rover and helicopter are currently exploring has a lot of rugged terrain, which makes communications dropouts more likely,” said JPL’s Josh Anderson, the Ingenuity team lead. “The team’s goal is to keep Ingenuity ahead of Perseverance, which occasionally involves temporarily pushing beyond communication limits. We’re excited to be back in communications range with Ingenuity and receive confirmation of Flight 52.”

Source: NASA

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