After 63 Days of Silence, NASA Has Restored Communications with the Mars Helicopter

One of the most exciting success stories we’ve been able to report on repeatedly here at UT is that of the Ingenuity helicopter. Not only has it racked up several firsts for humanity, most notably the first powered flight of a craft on another planet, but it has provided both a new perspective and new scientific data to its operations team. It’s also consistently stayed ahead of its companion on the Red Planet – Perseverance, the rover it originally launched from. Sometimes, that causes a scary waiting period for the helicopter’s operations team.

Recently, one of those periods came to an end, with a 63-day silent period coming at the end of the helicopter’s 52nd flight. The flight took the helicopter over a hill out of the direct line of sight of Perseverance on April 26th. I then took the rover a full 63 days to get to the top of the hill, where it was able to reestablish a connection with its airborne partner on June 28th.

Since Ingenuity doesn’t have enough power to beam a signal all the way back to Earth, or even a satellite orbiting Mars, by itself, it has to relay all its communications through the much larger and more powerful rover. However, that means, occasionally, the operations team has to push past the limits of the rover’s effective communication range for Ingenuity to find a safe patch of ground to land on.

UT Space Btie about Ingenuity’s silence.

The helicopter can operate in flight without directly interacting with Perseverance or its human operators back on Earth. So it didn’t simply drop out of the sky once it crested over the hill and lost its direct link. But the operators also can’t count a flight as “successful” until they have reestablished communication and pulled the data Ingenuity managed to collect, including whatever pictures it took. They successfully did so for Flight 52 when they reestablished the connection.

That data was a long time coming, though. What took the rover almost two months to traverse took the helicopter only around two minutes. Flight 52 covered 363 meters in about 139 seconds and was intended both to have Ingenuity capture pictures of the terrain Perseverance would then traverse, as well as set the helicopter up for future missions toward a rock outcropping that has caught the interest of some of Perseverance’s mission scientists.

That rock outcropping is now the desired landing area for Flight 53, which the operations team expects to perform in the upcoming weeks. Hopefully, this time, the world won’t have to wait so long to hear back from its intrepid first otherworldly flying machine.

The Mars Exploration Community is excited by Ingenuity breaking it’s silence.
Credit – Mars Guy YouTube Channel

Learn More:
NASA – NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter Phones Home
UT – Ingenuity is Doing Surprisingly Well
UT – Ingenuity Snaps Another Shot of Perseverance on the Move
UT – NASA Was Hoping for 5 Helicopter Flights on Mars. Ingenuity Just Completed its 50th!
UT – Ingenuity is now Scouting Ahead of Perseverance, Helping it Navigate Difficult Terrain

Lead Image:
A picture of Ingenuity after its recent 50th flight – much more covered in Martian dust, but still operational.
Credit – NASA / JPL-Caltech / ASU / MSSS

2 Replies to “After 63 Days of Silence, NASA Has Restored Communications with the Mars Helicopter”

  1. Good to hear! It wasn’t exactly planned, and I suspect much of Perseverance’s traverse had to do without the expected guidance images, but all’s well that ends well.

    1. Forgot to say thanks! All the more heartfelt since this was the only source on this that got caught in my news feed.

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