February 23, 2024

Science – NASA temporarily loses contact with a small helicopter on the surface of Mars

Ingenuity mini helicopter Photo: Agence France-Presse

NASA has temporarily lost contact with its small Ingenuity helicopter on Mars, raising concerns about the possible end of the high-tech device's mission. However, the connection was restored.

NASA temporarily lost contact with its small Ingenuity helicopter on Mars, raising concerns about the possibility of the high-tech device's mission being over. NASA said on Friday evening that the Mars rover “Perseverance” suddenly lost contact with the aircraft on Thursday. Engineers will attempt to reconnect. This finally worked.

“Good news today,” NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) wrote Saturday evening on SMS X, formerly Twitter. “We have reestablished contact with the Mars helicopter.”

Perseverance had previously been ordered to begin a long-term search for the signal from Creativity. “The team is studying new data to better understand the unexpected communications failure during Flight 72,” NASA said.

The helicopter, which resembles a drone, landed on the Red Planet in February 2021 with the “Perseverance” rover and aims to support it as “aerial reconnaissance” in the search for possible signs of life on Mars. Perseverance sends the data collected by the helicopter back to Earth.

The helicopter took off on its 72nd flight on Thursday, but shortly before landing it lost contact with the vehicle. NASA then said the rover was out of sight of the helicopter, but the team was considering getting closer for a visual inspection. The US space agency had lost contact with Ingenuity in the past, most recently last year for two full months.

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The original goal of the helicopter, which weighs just 1.8 kilograms, was to complete 50 flights on Mars in 30 days. It has already far exceeded this: in total, the “Creativity” has already covered more than 17 kilometers and reached a height of 24 metres.

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