Two days after losing communication with its Mars helicopter, Ingenuity, during its most recent journey, NASA was able to get in touch with the craft again on Saturday.
During Flight 72, last Thursday, the rover Perseverance lost touch with its counterpart. JPL defined Flight 72 as “a quick pop-up vertical flight to check out the helicopter’s systems.”
Flight 72 was designed to confirm that everything was operating as planned after Flight 71 was abruptly terminated due to Ingenuity’s downward-facing camera failing to identify objects that would help with navigation in featureless areas of the planetary surface.
The vehicle traveled upward to a height of 12 meters (39.4 feet) and back during Flight 72. Just over 32 seconds passed during the entire operation before the communication terminated.
After “performing long-duration listening sessions” in search of the helicopter’s signal, Perseverance, which is responsible for transmitting data between Earth and the helicopter, was able to get back in touch with Ingenuity, according to a statement released by JPL on Saturday.
“The team is reviewing the new data to better understand the unexpected comms dropout during Flight 72,” stated JPL.
In February 2021, Perseverance and Ingenuity made their way to Mars. The rotorcraft’s accomplishments are significant since it is the first helicopter and autonomous powered vehicle to fly on a planet other than Earth.
NASA commemorated the pair’s 1000th day of operations in December, or 1000 Martian days. On the red planet, a day lasts approximately 37 minutes longer than it does on Earth.
We have been in Jezero Crater during those days. “Seek signs of ancient life and collect samples of rock and regolith (broken rock and dust) for possible return to Earth,” is how NASA describes the mission’s objectives.
Viewers may see the route taken by Perseverance on a map made from photos taken by the European Space Agency (ESA) Mars Express High Resolution Stereo camera as well as the HiRISA camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.
In other Mars-related news, the European Space Agency reported last week that the Mars Express spacecraft has observed significant ice water deposits beneath the surface of the planet near the equator.
It was said by the satellite agency that this ice had “the most water ever found in this part of the planet.”
The mission examined the disintegrating Medusae Fossae Formation (MFF) in 2007; this feature is assumed to be the cause of the planet’s rust-colored, iron-rich dust. Scientists thought they had discovered extensive, undiscovered water deposits up to 2.5 kilometers underground at the time.
The deposits have since been confirmed by radar research to be ice, and experts estimate that they are thicker than initially believed at a depth of 3.7 kilometers.
The ESA stated that the amount of water in the ice formations could cover the Red Sea on Earth.
The MFF is probably composed of alternating layers of ice and dust, covered in a coating of ash or dry dust for protection, according to the radar data. The depth of such shield is probably several hundred meters.
Future Mars missions would benefit greatly from the water deposits, which also offer insights about the red planet’s historical climate.
“Unfortunately, these MFF deposits are covered by hundreds of meters of dust, making them inaccessible for at least the next few decades. However, every bit of ice we find helps us build a better picture of where Mars’s water has flowed before, and where it can be found today,” explained Mars Express project scientist Colin Wilson.