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Tuesday, April 23 2024

NASA Regains Link with Mini-Helicopter on Mars

Photo Credit : Google

NASA has re-established contact with its tiny helicopter on Mars, the US space agency said Saturday, after an unexpected outage prompted fears that the hard-working craft had finally met its end.

After an unplanned outage that raised concerns that the devoted vehicle had finally reached the end of its useful life, NASA announced on Saturday that it had reestablished contact with its tiny helicopter on Mars.
In 2021, the rover Perseverance brought Ingenuity, a drone measuring roughly 1.6 feet (0.5 meters) in height, to Mars, where it made history as the first motorized vehicle to fly independently on a different planet.

On Thursday, the 72nd lift-off of Ingenuity on Mars, during a test flight, communications were unexpectedly lost. The data from the helicopter is transmitted via Perseverance back to Earth.

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) posted on X, formerly Twitter, late on Saturday, saying, “Good news today.”

The agency said that contact had finally been made with the helicopter by commanding Perseverance to “perform long-duration listening sessions for Ingenuity’s signal.”

“The team is reviewing the new data to better understand the unexpected comms dropout during Flight 72,” it added.

NASA previously said that Ingenuity had attained an altitude of 40 feet (12 meters) on Flight 72, which was a “quick pop-up vertical flight to check out the helicopter’s systems, following an unplanned early landing during its previous flight.”

But during its descent, “communications between the helicopter and rover terminated early, prior to touchdown,” the agency said.

JPL had noted on Friday that Perseverance was temporarily “out of line-of-sight with Ingenuity, but the team could consider driving closer for a visual inspection.”

In a response to a post on X asking if Ingenuity would be able to fly again, JPL said Saturday that “the team needs to assess the new data before that can be determined.”

NASA has lost contact with the helicopter before, including for an agonizing two months last year.

Weighing in at a mere four pounds (1.8 kilograms), the tiny rotorcraft has accomplished far more than its initial mission of five flights over thirty days on the red planet.

It has traveled a total of slightly more than 10 miles (17 kilometers) and as high as 79 feet (24 meters).

Its endurance has been astounding, especially since it has to withstand the bitterly cold Martian nights while being warmed by the solar panels that replenish its energy reserves during the day.

It has accompanied Perseverance on her wheeled companion’s search for potential indicators of prehistoric microbial life by acting as an aerial scout.

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