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Business News/ Science / News/  NASA restores communication with mini-helicopter on Mars

NASA restores communication with mini-helicopter on Mars

NASA has re-established communication with its small helicopter on Mars after concerns were raised about its fate.

FILE PHOTO: NASA. REUTERS/Joe Skipper/File Photo (REUTERS/Joe Skipper/File Photo)Premium
FILE PHOTO: NASA. REUTERS/Joe Skipper/File Photo (REUTERS/Joe Skipper/File Photo)

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) said on Saturday that it has successfully re-established communication with its small helicopter on Mars.

The US space agency's statement comes after an unexpected interruption raised concerns that the diligent craft might have met its end.

“Good news today: We've reestablished contact with the #MarsHelicopter after instructing @NASAPersevere 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," NASA JPL said in a post on X.

As reported by AFP, Ingenuity, a drone standing at approximately 1.6 feet (0.5 meters) tall, landed on Mars in 2021 alongside the rover Perseverance, marking the first autonomous flight by a motorized craft on another planet.

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While data from the helicopter is transmitted to Earth via Perseverance, communication was unexpectedly lost during Ingenuity's 72nd lift-off on Mars during a test flight on Thursday.

NASA had reported that during Flight 72, Ingenuity had achieved an altitude of 40 feet (12 meters), 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.

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On Friday, JPL (Jet Propulsion Laboratory) mentioned that Perseverance had temporarily “out of line-of-sight with Ingenuity, but the team could consider driving closer for a visual inspection."

AFP noted that NASA has experienced previous instances of losing contact with the helicopter, including a challenging two-month period last year.

The miniature rotorcraft, with a weight of only four pounds (1.8 kilograms), has surpassed its initial objective of conducting five flights over 30 days on Mars.

In total, it has travelled slightly over 10 miles (17 kilometres) and attained altitudes of up to 79 feet (24 meters).

Also Read: Peregrine Mission One faces ‘technical issue’, NASA vows to learn from moon mission

The remarkable endurance of the helicopter is noteworthy, especially considering its need to endure extremely cold Martian nights. It remains warm through solar panels that recharge its batteries during daylight hours.

(With inputs from AFP)

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Published: 21 Jan 2024, 09:45 AM IST
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