The official mission logbook now lists the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter’s 52nd flight as a success. The trip took place on April 26 but mission controllers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California lost communication with the chopper as it dropped towards the Mars surface for landing.
The Perseverance rover was at a different area from where the chopper had landed, thus the Ingenuity team anticipated the communications failure because of the slope that stood in the way. Between the JPL mission controllers and the chopper, the rover serves as a radio relay. The Ingenuity team had prepared re-contact strategies for when the rover would return to within communication range before this communication failure occurred. When Perseverance reached the top of the hill on June 28 and saw Ingenuity again, contact was re-established, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory said in an article on its website.
Flight 52 was designed to reposition the helicopter and capture pictures of the Martian terrain for the rover’s research team. It was 1,191 feet (363 metres) in length and lasted 139 seconds.
“The portion of Jezero Crater the rover and helicopter are currently exploring has a lot of rugged terrains, which makes communications dropouts more likely,” said JPL’s Josh Anderson, the Ingenuity team lead. “The team’s goal is to keep Ingenuity ahead of Perseverance, which occasionally involves temporarily pushing beyond communication limits. We’re excited to be back in communications range with Ingenuity and receive confirmation of Flight 52.”
Although 63 days is a long time to wait for flight results, the data that is flowing in shows that everything is well with the first aircraft on another Earth. The helicopter may take to the skies again in a few weeks if the results of the rest of Ingenuity’s health exams are similarly positive.
The crew intends to undertake another westward flight to a new base of operations close to a rocky outcrop they’re interested in investigating from the interim airstrip to the west that Flight 53 is intended to reach. (ANI)