WASHINGTON: Nasa has re-established contact with its tiny helicopter on Mars, the US space agency said on Saturday, after an unexpected outage prompted fears that the hard-working craft had finally met its end.
Ingenuity, a drone about 1.6 feet tall, arrived on Mars in 2021 aboard the rover Perseverance and became the first motorised craft to fly autonomously on another planet.
Data from the helicopter are transmitted via Perseverance back to Earth, but communications were suddenly lost during a test flight on Thursday, Ingenuity’s 72nd lift-off on Mars.
“Good news today,” Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) wrote on X, formerly Twitter, late Saturday.
The agency said contact had finally been made with the copter by commanding Perseverance to “perform long-duration listening sessions for Ingenuity’s signal.”
“The team is reviewing the new data to better understand the unexpected comms dropout during Flight 72,” it added.
Nasa previously said that Ingenuity had attained an altitude of 40 feet on Flight 72, which was a “quick pop-up vertical flight to check out the helicopter’s systems, following an unplanned early landing during its previous flight.”
But during its descent, “communications between the helicopter and rover terminated early, prior to touchdown,” the agency said.