The tiny Ingenuity helicopter that was sent to Mars with the Perseverance rover went silent for six days. The communications team lost contact with the craft, but eventually received a single radio confirmation signal.
However, Ingenuity’s chief engineer, Travis Brown, explained that this first-of-its-kind communications outage was the result of two factors. First, the topology between the rover and the helicopter was very difficult for the radio used by Ingenuity. Second, a small mountain ridge just southeast of the Flight 49 landing site separated the helicopter from the rover’s work area. The impact of this ridge would have weakened only after the rover got too close to the helicopter.
Despite this disconnection, Ingenuity continues to operate and exceed its nominal performance. However, the engineering team understands that the helicopter will not last forever.
Ingenuity was sent to Mars to demonstrate the capabilities of aircraft on another planet. Its first flight took place on April 19, 2021, and since then it has already made several successful flights.
Researchers hope Ingenuity will help them gain new data about the surface of Mars and help identify places the Perseverance rover should explore in more detail.