February 26, 2024

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NASA lost contact with its historic Mars helicopter, then regained it

NASA lost contact with its historic Mars helicopter, then regained it

Ingenuity NASA's mission passed the Red Planet nearly three years ago.”/>
Zoom in / NASA Mars cleverness The helicopter has been flying across the Red Planet for nearly three years.

NASA

The US space agency sparked widespread dismay in the spaceflight community on Friday evening when it announced the loss of contact with Mars. cleverness A helicopter during its final flight on Thursday, January 18.

“During the planned landing, communications between the helicopter and the rover ended early, prior to landing.” According to a statement From NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “the cleverness The team is analyzing the available data and considering the next steps to restore communications with the helicopter.”

This seemed like a bad sign for the plucky little helicopter, which has well outlived its planned lifespan for a few test flights since it landed on Mars in February 2021 and began flying two months later. Instead, the loss of communications occurred during the 72nd flight of the 4-pound flying machine, the first on another planet.

However, by Saturday, there was a more optimistic update from NASA. On the social networking site X The agency said: “Good news today: We have reconnected with #MarsHelicopter after being directed to @NASAPersevere to conduct long-term listening sessions for the Ingenuity signal.”

Old flying machine

Over the weekend, the helicopter flight team began reviewing data from the helicopter to better understand the cause of the unexpected communications outage during Flight 72. It's not clear what they will find, but there have been some health concerns recently as the helicopter approaches three years of operation. service.

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On the vehicle's 71st flight about two weeks ago, the helicopter was supposed to travel a long distance of about 1,200 feet (358 meters), reach an altitude of 40 feet (12 meters) and spend approximately 125 seconds in the air. NASA sought to change the location of the helicopter for future missions to survey new areas on the surface of Mars. However, during that trip cleverness He made an unplanned early landing.

Thursday trip It was intended as a check flight, rising straight up to about 40 feet before landing at the same location 30 seconds later. With the perseverance The vehicle monitors the helicopter and transmits data to scientists on the ground. cleverness It has reached its maximum height. But then, communications were lost. The next day, as well perseverance Make more time to listen clevernessThe helicopter was found again.

So what happens now? cleverness They've survived a lot on Mars, including communication issues, dust storms, long winters, and more. Expect the program's scientists and engineers to take their time to diagnose the latest problem, and likely to conduct more test flights. But the truth is that cleverness It is probably much closer to the end of the flying days than to the beginning; Closer to the end of her remarkable story than the beginning.

that's good. All good things must come to an end. Even great and innovative things, like the first flying machine on Mars.