NASA lost contact with Mars helicopter Ingenuity for 15 breathless minutes

NASA performed the seventeenth flight for the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter on Sunday, December 5. Every little thing went as deliberate in the course of the helicopter’s 614-foot traverse to the northeast. Nevertheless, in the course of the remaining descent part of the flight, the communications hyperlink between Ingenuity and the Perseverance Mars rover was disrupted. It seems the helicopter was in a position to land efficiently. Roughly quarter-hour after the radio hyperlink was misplaced, Perseverance obtained packets of Ingenuity telemetry indicating the battery and flight electronics had been wholesome.

Through NASA

NASA believes the lack of the radio hyperlink was attributable to a “difficult radio configuration” between Perseverance and Ingenuity in the course of the helicopter’s touchdown. Telemetry information NASA from the flight confirmed that the car carried out as anticipated in the course of the 117-second flight at an altitude of 33 toes above the floor of Mars. Nevertheless, telemetry information is lacking for a couple of third of the ultimate descent from an altitude of about 10 toes above the Martian floor.

NASA mentioned earlier than it may make sure precisely what occurred to trigger the lack of radio hyperlink, it needed to switch the lacking information from Flight 17 from the helicopter to Perseverance after which to Earth. NASA was in a position to relay that information to Earth on Wednesday of this week, and the info exhibits that energy aboard the helicopter is superb. The extent of energy being transferred from the photo voltaic panels to the six lithium-ion batteries contained in the helicopter is powerful sufficient that NASA believes the helicopter is in an upright stance.

Through NASA/JPL-Caltech

Nevertheless, the Ingenuity group continues to have line-of-site points with communications, which they consider induced the lack of telemetry information in the course of the flight. The road-of-site subject has prevented the vast majority of information packets from being relayed to the rover. Excellent information packets additionally embody the entire imagery from the flight. NASA says that it expects a possibility to switch information within the subsequent a number of days.

NASA knew Ingenuity would face challenges with the rugged atmosphere the place it’s at present working. The helicopter has operated far previous its unique mission timeline, and it was initially designed to function on flat land. At the moment, it’s working in an space with important elevation modifications that pose challenges not solely to the flight software program however to the radio sign hyperlink between Ingenuity and Perseverance.

The energy of a radio sign relies upon so much on having a transparent line of sight between the transmitting and receiving antennas. In rugged terrain, the road of sight could possibly be obstructed by giant rocks, hills, or ridges. Communications may also be obstructed if Perseverance is aligned in order that its receiver faces away from the helicopter. Communications challenges throughout this flight embody a touchdown website that positioned a hill known as Bras between the helicopter and the rover. The hill is barely 13-feet tall, however that proved sufficient to hamper communications.

When Flight 17 was deliberate, controllers believed Perseverance can be parked in a selected location, going through a selected course. Nevertheless, plans for Perseverance change day-to-day, and by the point Flight 17 occurred, the rover was parked in a distinct location. The rover’s location positioned it at a difficult heading for radio communications with Ingenuity.

The design groups behind Ingenuity constructed the helicopter to deal with this kind of subject. The helicopter was designed to energy down after flight and await additional directions mechanically. NASA says it believes the flight was a whole success noting that telemetry was nominal main up to date radio communications had been misplaced. A profitable touchdown is additional backed up by the info packets obtained quarter-hour after Ingenuity was presupposed to have landed.

Among the many information in these packets was battery voltage is indicating +76 millivolts, which is a constructive 1.2 p.c state of cost enhance over quarter-hour. That information exhibits that the photo voltaic panels had been charging the battery, and NASA says the excessive degree of charging is barely doable if the car was upright with its photo voltaic array pointed on the sky.

Mars Perseverance photo on Mars

Picture Credit score: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU

The picture above was captured by the Mars Perseverance rover’s Mastcam-Z Digicam on SOL 282 (December 5, 2021) at native imply photo voltaic time 07:49:18., shared by NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU

Difficult Situations

Ingenuity continues working in circumstances above and past what it was initially meant to endure. One of many greatest challenges for continued operations was decreased Martian air density because the seasons modified on the Pink Planet. The environment on Mars is already considerably much less dense than the environment right here on Earth. Because the seasons modified, NASA needed to enhance the rotor velocity of Ingenuity to permit the helicopter to proceed to function.

Mars Ingenuity helicopter


With the Martian environment turning into much less dense with the brand new season, NASA elevated the rotor velocity to 2800 RPM. The upper rotor velocity offered the carry wanted to maintain working. The present lack of radio communication isn’t the primary problem that Ingenuity has overcome.

Beforehand, a flight was scrubbed in September after a difficulty with a pair of servos was found throughout a pre-flight checkout. The servos are vital to steady flight, and one principle on the time was that the problem may point out elements of the servo gearbox and swashplate linkages had been starting to put on. Nevertheless, the problem doesn’t seem to have induced any further issues for Ingenuity to this point.

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