NASA loses contact with its Mars Ingenuity helicopter

On January 19, NASA announced that it lost contact with its 4-pound (1.8 kilograms) Mars Ingenuity Helicopter. The agency announced after the chopper completed its 72nd flight on the red planet on Jan. 18.

“Data Ingenuity sent to the Perseverance rover (which acts as a relay between the helicopter and Earth) during the flight indicates it successfully climbed to its assigned maximum altitude of 40 feet (12 meters),” NASA officials wrote in an update on Friday (Jan. 19).

“During its planned descent, communications between the helicopter and rover terminated early, prior to touchdown,” they added. “The Ingenuity team is analyzing available data and considering next steps to reestablish communications with the helicopter.”

Perseverance rover landed on Mars in February 2021 alongside the Mars Ingenuity Helicopter on the terrains of the 28-mile-wide (45 kilometers) Jezero Crater. Scientists announced that this region of Mars hours a big lake and a river delta billions of years in the past. Since the rover touched down on the Martian surface, it has continued to hunt for evidence of past life on the red planet.

Over its exploration period, the rover has obtained samples that will be returned to Earth during future missions. NASA scientists and engineers built the Mars Ingenuity Helicopter to provide an aerial view of Mars for the rover. After completing its original five-flight demonstration campaign in 2021, NASA put the chopper on an extended mission to make more discoveries for humanity.

How NASA hopes To Restore Contact With Mars Ingenuity Helicopter

The exact positions of NASA’s Perseverance rover (right) and Ingenuity helicopter on Mars on Jan. 19, 2024. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Since 2021 until recently, the Mars Ingenuity Helicopter has continued to help Perseverance in making interesting discoveries on Mars. However, with its loss of contact with ground control on Earth, NASA is hoping that Perseverance will surely return the favor and help the chopper out.

“Perseverance is currently out of line-of-sight with Ingenuity, but the team could consider driving closer for a visual inspection,” NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, which controls both robots’ missions, said via X on Friday.

The mission’s flight log reports that Ingenuity has been in operation above the Martian terrain for more than 128 minutes during which it covered about 11 miles (17.7 kilometers) for 72 Mars flights.

However, scientists cannot say if the Ingenuity will continue with its operation again. But once Ingenuity’s controllers restore communication contact with the chopper, NASA will continue with its exploration over the Martian terrains.

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