The Mars Ingenuity chopper has resumed communicating after 63 days of quiet.
On April 26, the small chopper launched on its 52nd voyage to Mars, but it lost touch with mission controllers before landing, resulting in a communication blackout that lasted for months.
However, on June 28, Ingenuity made a second call to home, allaying any concerns about the original aircraft’s security and whereabouts. It will be a very long time before humanity on Earth receives news that Ingenuity has arrived safely.
The helicopter was to be moved throughout the journey, and pictures of the Martian surface were to be taken. The mission crew expected that there may be a period of radio silence.
Due to the fact that Ingenuity routes all communications through the Perseverance rover to mission control at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, this is the case. A hill posed another barrier that stopped the helicopter and rover from interacting when Ingenuity took out on trip 52.
Challenges of Connectivity
According to Josh Anderson, the Ingenuity team lead at JPL, “the area of Jezero Crater the rover and helicopter are currently exploring has a lot of rugged terrain, which makes communications dropouts more likely.”
The two robots can explore Mars from the surface and its atmosphere in search of traces of prehistoric life, but they have trouble staying near to one another.
A tiny rotorcraft was used as an initial technological test for Ingenuity to see whether it could fly on Mars. Ingenuity transformed into an airborne scout in the spring of 2021 after exceeding all expectations during five successful flights, charting out secure and intellectually stimulating routes for the Perseverance rover’s investigation.
On occasion, Ingenuity is out photographing and investigating locations that the rover might not reach for several weeks.
Ingenuity’s signals, including the information it had collected during its 139-second trip over 1,191 feet (363 meters) on April 26, could be communicated and relayed to Earth after Perseverance had climbed the obstruction hill.
The team’s objective is to maintain Ingenuity ahead of Perseverance, which occasionally requires briefly going outside the boundaries of communication, according to Anderson. We’re thrilled to be back in contact with Ingenuity and learn that Flight 52 has been confirmed.
According to Travis Brown, head engineer for Ingenuity at JPL, it’s not the first time the mission team has had communication hiccups with Ingenuity that last a “agonizingly long time,” like the delays that happened before to the helicopter’s landmark 50th flight in April.