NASA’s Ingenuity Helicopter Stops Transmitting Signals from Mars
NASA’s experimental Mars helicopter Ingenuity has gone quiet, and engineers are scrambling to figure out what happened. During a short 40-foot test flight on Thursday – flight number 72 for this intrepid chopper – Ingenuity failed to communicate back to its colleague Perseverance as expected. One moment it was hovering above the Martian surface, the next – radio silence.
Like an anxious parent, Perseverance has been pacing back and forth trying to reestablish contact, but as of Friday afternoon there was still no word from the daring flyer. Ingenuity relies on Perseverance to relay communications to and from Earth, making the rover essential for monitoring the helicopter’s status.
The loss of contact was unexpected because the little chopper had successfully climbed to altitude as planned. Everything seemed fine until Ingenuity started its descent. That’s when the communication cut out. NASA says the flight was meant to “check out Ingenuity’s systems” after an earlier abnormal landing.
It’s an anxious wait for NASA scientists who have been thrilled with Ingenuity’s performance over the last two years. Having arrived on Mars with Perseverance in 2021, the tech demo was only supposed to fly five times. But Ingenuity blew past expectations, completing over 20 flights in its first year alone. Its mission has since been extended as it continues to demonstrate the potential of aerial exploration of Mars.
Losing contact with a craft over 200 million miles away is every mission controller’s nightmare. All NASA can do is keep trying to hail their intrepid helicopter while the engineers pore over telemetry data to unravel the mystery. Ingenuity has beaten the odds before – let’s hope it pulls through again.