Ingenuity phone home.
After more than two months of radio silence, NASA's Mars chopper has phoned home.
In a news update, NASA confirmed that it had regained contact with its Ingenuity helicopter, which began its 52nd flight on the Red Planet over two months ago on April 26.
As it descended onto the surface of Mars, Ingenuity's communication cut out, and mission control was not able to re-establish it until June 28, NASA said.
While a 63-day lag between transmissions seems lengthy, the team at NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab expected a potential communication dropout due to the hilly terrain between Ingenuity's dropoff location and the Perseverance rover that supplies its signal.
Despite the new literal obstacle, Ingenuity lives to see another day, an extraplanetary tour de force that has exceeded all expectations.
To re-establish a connection, the JPL team implemented a re-contact protocol for the rover and its helicopter buddy, which included driving the rover — which acts as a relay between the chopper and mission control back on Earth — over the hill and into signal range.
"The portion of Jezero Crater the rover and helicopter are currently exploring has a lot of rugged terrain, which makes communications dropouts more likely," said JPL’s Ingenuity team lead Josh Anderson in the NASA news update. "The team’s goal is to keep Ingenuity ahead of Perseverance, which occasionally involves temporarily pushing beyond communication limits."
Now that mission control has re-established contact with Ingenuity, it's sifting through the data it collected during those two months it was out of touch. By all accounts, it seems that the chopper is healthy and ready for its next flight.
While experts predicted that there could be a loss of signal as the little helicopter lost sight of its rover companion, we're still glad it got back to mission control after ghosting them for months.
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