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NASA regains communications with Mars helicopter Ingenuity

NASA is back in contact with Ingenuity

National Aeronautics and Space Administration lost contact with the Mars helicopter Ingenuity just a few days ago. Just a few days after losing contact NASA made a proclamation that it had regained communications with the plucky little helicopter.

Reported by NASA through X

A post was created on X (formerly known as Twitter) by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the one which designed and operated the helicopter. They announced that the helicopter was back in touch after there was an unexpected communications dropout.

“Good news today: We’ve reestablished contact with the #MarsHelicopter after instructing @NASAPersevere to perform long-duration listening sessions for Ingenuity’s signal,” NASA’s JPL wrote on X.

The team studied the cause of the unexpected communication dropout

The team has reviewed the new data to better understand the unexpected communication dropout that took place during Flight 72. The helicopter’s size is extremely small for it to communicate directly with Earth. The communication would require a very large antenna that would be unbelievably big and heavy to attach to the helicopter.

Rather, the communications take place via the Perseverance rover. It is typically located nearby on the surface of Mars. Perseverance does not have a source to communicate directly to Earth either. Moreover, it also does not carry a huge antenna.

Working of Perseverance – the communication rover

How Perseverance works is that it sends signals up to Mars orbiters overhead. The signals then transmit that data to Earth. The orbiters that are used for these communications include NASA orbiters like the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), Mars Atmospheric and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN), and Mars Odyssey. Additionally, the orbiters from the European Space Agency (ESA), and the Mars Express and Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) are used.

When all these devices are put together, they form the Mars Relay Network. The network takes signals from Mars rovers and landers and sends them on to Earth. After that, they are picked up by the Deep Space Network. This network is a set of huge antennas spread around three different sites around the globe.

The communication became more complex last year in June

The communications with Ingenuity have become more complex over the last year. This happened as the distance between Ingenuity and Perseverance has been further apart. There was also sometimes the presence of terrain structures like hills between them. The lack of communication was because of the terrain issue. Hence, the dropout with Ingenuity took place in June last year.

The drivers of the rover and those planning the flights of Ingenuity have to be very careful so that they can keep the two close enough to be in communications range. However, they should also be kept far enough apart that there is no danger of them crashing into each other.

This might occur because of the communication delay between Earth and Mars. It usually takes up to 20 minutes for a signal to travel between the two. There is no way the rover and helicopter can’t be controlled in real-time.

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