NASA has restored contact with its helicopter on Mars –

NASA has restored contact with its helicopter on Mars –

NASA has reestablished contact with its small helicopter called Ingenuity on Mars, the space agency said Saturday, after an unexpected failure that sparked fears of the machine's demise.

The helicopter, which looks like a large drone, became the first motorized device to fly on another planet in 2021.

He arrived on Mars with the Perseverance rover, which serves as a relay for data transmission between the helicopter and Earth and whose task is to search for signs of ancient life on Mars.

Communication between the helicopter and the rover suddenly stopped on Thursday during Ingenuity's 72nd flight.

Good news today, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), which is responsible for the machine, wrote on X (formerly Twitter) on Saturday evening.

The agency said contact with the helicopter was eventually established by instructing Perseverance to conduct extended listening sessions to pick up Ingenuity's signal.

The helicopter team is reviewing the new data to better understand the unexpected communications disruption during Flight 72, she added.

The Perseverance rover collecting samples on Mars.

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The Perseverance Rover collects samples on Mars. (archive photo)

Photo: Radio-Canada

NASA previously said Thursday's flight was intended to check the helicopter's systems after it landed earlier than planned on the previous flight.

Ingenuity had reached an altitude of 12 meters, NASA said in this report published Friday evening, but during its descent communication between the helicopter and the rover ended earlier, before landing.


Beyond expectations

NASA had temporarily lost contact with the helicopter in the past, including last year for an extended period of about two months.

Originally, the Ingenuity, which weighs just 1.8 kg, was only supposed to launch five times, but the mission exceeded all expectations.

In total, the helicopter covered around 17 kilometers and flew to a height of 24 meters.

Its longevity is remarkable considering it has to survive freezing nights on Mars and warms up thanks to solar panels that charge its batteries during the day.

Working with Perseverance, he acted as an aerial scout to help his wheeled companion search for possible signs of ancient microbial life.