Breaking News: NASA’s Mars Ingenuity Chopper Resumes Communication After Days of Silence

By Sophia Francise

July 4, 2023
A look into Ingenuity Mars Helicopter

NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter has communicated with mission controllers at the organization’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (Jpl) in Southern California after going more than two months (63 days) of silence, the US space agency announced.

The copter’s objective is to hover ahead of the Perseverance Rover and scout for any potential threats or interesting objects. 

The mission was carried out on April 26 but as the helicopter approached the ground for a landing, mission managers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California lost contact with it.

In the case of Flight 52, this meant that the aircraft landed over a hill, away from the rover’s line of sight.

What is Flight 52?

Flight 52 was a flight mission lasting 139 seconds and a distance of 1,191 feet (363 meters). 

The main goal of the mission  was to reposition the helicopter and take pictures of the Martian surface for the rover’s science team.

The Ingenuity team anticipated a communications dropout due to a hill blocking communication between the helicopter and Perseverance rover.1

“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.” 

With the latest call, the official mission logbook has officially recorded the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter’s 52nd flight as a success.

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Sixty-three days is a long wait for flight results, but data shows the first aircraft is doing well and if Ingenuity’s health checks are rosy, the helicopter may fly again within weeks.

The team intends to undertake another westward flight: Flight 53. This time, they are headed to a new base of operations close to a rocky outcrop they’re interested in exploring from the interim airstrip to the west.

What About Ingenuity: What is it?

The Ingenuity Mars Helicopter was built by JPL, which also manages the project for NASA Central under the support of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. 

NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, and NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley both contributed considerably to flight performance analysis and technical support during the creation of Ingenuity. 

SolAero, Qualcomm, and AeroVironment Inc. also provided significant vehicle components and design assistance. Lockheed Space designed and manufactured the Mars Helicopter Delivery System.

Dave Lavery is the executive in charge of the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter program at NASA Headquarters.

References

  1. Jet Propulsion Laboratory, ‘NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter Phones Home’, 30 June 2023, https://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/nasas-ingenuity-mars-helicopter-phones-home[]
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