Mars Helicopter went silent for six Sols, imperilled Perseverance rover, too

NASA has detailed a six-day stretch throughout which it couldn’t contact its Ingenuity Mars helicopter.

In a prolonged publish chief engineer Travis Brown defined that after the copter’s forty ninth flight, radio contact was misplaced for six sols – simply in need of six hours and 6 days of terrestrial time.

Initially, NASA’s Mars boffins weren’t unduly involved as a result of the Perseverance Rover had moved behind a rocky outcrop that created a “communication shadow”. Brown wrote that since Sol 685 the helicopter “had sadly been drifting out and in of night-time survival mode” which made each day contact with the craft tough.” So a day or two with out contact wasn’t worrying.

However as soon as Perseverance moved to a different location and Ingenuity nonetheless couldn’t be discovered, Brown wrote “the scenario started to generate some unease.”

“Poor telecom efficiency was seen as a believable clarification, however there have been causes to doubt it,” he wrote. “In additional than 700 sols working the helicopter on Mars, not as soon as had we ever skilled a complete radio blackout. Even within the worst communications environments, we had at all times seen some indication of exercise.”

However the sign obtained on that day, sol 761, was only a easy ACK. The following day, the copter once more acknowledged a command, however did little else.

Mission employees decided that the ridge separating Ingenuity and Perseverance was a problem for the ‘copter’s radio. It didn’t assist that Perseverance’s helicopter base station (HBS) antenna is mounted low on the car’s proper and is topic to occlusion results.

Whereas NASA folks figured that out, Perseverance moved in the direction of its subsequent objective – however that created new issues.

“This can be very necessary for Ingenuity to remain forward of Perseverance whereas transferring by the slender channels of the Jezero delta,” Brown wrote, because the rotorcraft’s job is to scout forward for the wheeled rover. And NASA operates a meter no-fly zone round Perseverance.

With the rover on the transfer, and the helicopter stopped, it grew to become crucial to get Ingenuity transferring.

“Counting on the helicopter’s onboard pre-flight checks to make sure car security and banking on stable communications from the rover’s imminent proximity, the staff uplinked the flight plan,” Brown wrote.

Ingenuity did extra than simply ACK that add. It ingested and executed it, leading to its fiftieth and set an altitude document of 18 meters.

“It might be an understatement to say that the helicopter staff was relieved to see the profitable flight telemetry within the Sol 763 downlink the next morning,” Brown wrote.

However he added that anxious days lie forward.

“It now seems that the mud masking our photo voltaic panel will be certain that Ingenuity will possible stay on this transitional energy state for a while,” he wrote. “Because of this, a lot to the chagrin of her staff, we aren’t but finished enjoying this high-stakes sport of cover and search with the playful little helicopter.”

Ingenuity final flew on April twenty second, when it made a 188-meter hop at an altitude of 12 meters. The craft was designed to fly simply 5 occasions, so has vastly exceeded expectations. ®