NASA’s Ingenuity Mars helicopter is alive

After more than two months of radio silence, NASA’s Ingenuity mission team has reestablished contact with the program’s Mars Helicopter.

The silence was due to a Martian hill blocking line-of-sight between the Perseverance rover and the helicopter. The rover acts as a communications conduit between the helicopter and mission control at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California.

Communications were originally lost during the helicopter’s 52nd flight, where it spent just more than two minutes capturing images of Mars’s surface around the planet’s 45km-wide Jezero Crater.

Ingenuity had to summit a nearby hill to reestablish the connection and similar dropouts remain a possibility.

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The images of Mars’s terrain are used to plot Perseverance’s course.

“The portion of Jezero Crater the rover and helicopter are currently exploring has a lot of rugged terrain, which makes communications dropouts more likely,” says Ingenuity team leader Josh Anderson.

“The team’s goal is to keep Ingenuity ahead of Perseverance, which occasionally involves temporarily pushing beyond communication limits.”

Ingenuity landed on Mars in February 2021 with the Perseverance rover and has completed more than 92 minutes and 11km of travel while on the planet.

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