NASA has reconnected with the Ingenuity mini-helicopter on Mars after an unexpected malfunction raised fears of its demise.
NASA's helicopter, which looks like a large drone, in 2021 became the first powered flying device to make a trip to another planet.
He arrives at the Red Planet with the Perseverance rover, which acts as an “intermediary” by collecting Ingenuity data and transmitting it back to Earth and whose mission is to search for traces of ancient life on Mars.
Communications between the helicopter and the rover were suddenly cut off Thursday during Ingenuity's 72nd flight.
“Good news today,” NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), which built the helicopter, wrote on X (formerly Twitter) on Saturday night.
The agency said it eventually restored contact with the helicopter, and instructed Perseverance to “conduct long-term listening sessions in order to receive the Ingenuity signal.”
He added that the teams responsible for the helicopter are “analyzing new data to better understand the unexpected loss of communications during Flight 72.”
NASA had previously explained that Thursday's flight was intended to “check the helicopter's systems after an earlier landing than expected during the previous flight.”
NASA explained in a message issued on Friday evening that Ingenuity reached an altitude of 12 meters, but “during the landing process, communication between the helicopter and the rover was lost prematurely, before landing.”
NASA had briefly lost contact with the helicopter before, most notably for about two months last year.
The Ingenuity vehicle, which weighs just 1.8 kilograms, was originally intended to make only five flights, but the mission exceeded all expectations.
In total, the helicopter covered a distance of 17 kilometers and reached a height of 24 metres.
Its longevity is impressive, given that it must “survive” the cold of the Martian night and is only heated by solar panels that charge its batteries during the day.
In collaboration with Perseverance, he played a leading role in helping his “partner” search for possible evidence of ancient microbial life.
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