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Mars Helicopter Breaks Silence: Contacts Earth After 63 Days

NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter has successfully made contact after more than 60 days of being out of communication. The helicopter’s flight occurred on April 26, but during its descent for landing, mission controllers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California lost contact due to a hill obstructing the communication path between Ingenuity’s landing site and the Perseverance rover. This temporary loss of contact was expected and accounted for by the Ingenuity team, as stated in NASA JPL’s recent announcement. Mars Helicopter Breaks Silence: Contacts Earth After 63 Days.

Flight 52, which took place on April 26, lasted 139 seconds and covered a distance of 1,191 feet (363 meters). The purpose of this flight was to relocate the helicopter and capture images of the Martian surface for the rover’s science team. However, as Ingenuity landed over a hill, it was unable to establish a line of sight with the rover, resulting in the communications disruption.

NASA’s Mars Helicopter Resumes Communication: Ends 63-Day Silence

The Perseverance rover serves as a crucial radio relay between the helicopter and mission controllers. The Ingenuity team had already made plans to restore communication once the rover came back into range. On June 28, Perseverance crested the hill, allowing it to see Ingenuity again and re-establish contact.

Mars Helicopter Breaks Silence: Contacts Earth After 63 Days

The Ingenuity helicopter’s role is to scout potential obstacles and points of interest ahead of the Perseverance rover. To accomplish this, Ingenuity must sometimes push beyond communication limits, as its mission is to stay ahead of the rover. Despite the period of silence, NASA’s assessment based on the limited data suggests that the helicopter is in good condition as the first aircraft on another world.

Ingenuity Mars Helicopter Makes Contact: 63-Day Silence Broken

It’s worth noting that this communication blackout is unrelated to a previous incident after flight 49, when Ingenuity was out of touch for over six days. The Ingenuity team at JPL anticipated these communication challenges due to the rugged terrain of Jezero Crater, the area being explored by the rover and helicopter.

The re-established contact between Ingenuity and mission controllers marks another milestone in NASA’s Mars exploration mission. The team will continue to work on keeping Ingenuity ahead of Perseverance and navigating the rugged Martian landscape to gather valuable scientific data.

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