The famous Mars helicopter fell silent, leaving the anxious NASA team in the dark

An image of a creative helicopter on the surface of Mars taken by Perseverance Rover using one of its cameras.

Last weekend NASA ingenious helicopter She managed to restore her relationship with Rover perseverance After a brief break in communication. The space agency says the impending winter is likely to be the cause, and is making adjustments as a result.

On Thursday, Creativity – mercifully – sent a signal of perseverance after the intrepid helicopter missed a scheduled communications session. It was the first time since the couple landed on Mars in February 2021 that creativity missed an appointment. according to to NASA.

The team behind the mission believes Ingenuity entered a low-power state to save energy, and did so in response to the six lithium-ion batteries dropping below a critical threshold. This was likely due to the approach of winter, when more dust appears in the Martian atmosphere and temperatures become cooler. Dust blocks the amount of sunlight that hits the helicopter’s solar panel, which charges its batteries.

The persevering rover on a mission Find a guide Ancient microbial life on Mars, while the probe’s much smaller companion, Creativity, has become the first powered aircraft tree leaves From the surface of another planet on April 19, 2021. The two robots share a line of communication, while still transmitting messages of creativity back to Earth. The innovation uses small antennas to constantly communicate, exchanging data that is then routed to the rover’s main computer and transmitted to Earth via NASA’s Deep Space Network (a global set of radio antennas).

Creativity has an alarm that wakes the helicopter for insistently scheduled communication sessions. But on May 3, Ingenuity was not participating in its daily scheduled data exchange after the field programmable gate lost power overnight, causing the onboard helicopter clock to reset (the gate group manages Ingenuity’s operational state, powering its electronic systems and turning off). to save energy). Sunshine recharged the Ingenuity batteries the next morning, but the helicopter’s clock is now out of sync with the Clock of Perseverance. When Ingenuity was able to send a signal, the rover was no longer listening.

Two days later, the mission control center decided to correct the communication problem between the pair by programming the probe to spend approximately 429 Suns (a Martian day, lasting a little longer than a day on Earth) listening for the helicopter’s signal. Finally, the call came from Ingenuity on May 5 at 11:45 a.m. Mars local time. Although short, Ingenuity’s call to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory team confirmed that the helicopter’s battery was intact and that the solar panel was recharging its batteries.

The creation wasn’t quite designed to withstand the harsh Martian winter nights, as the helicopter was designed to only last 30 days on the surface of Mars. But the helicopter, which is 19 inches (48 cm) high and 4 pounds (1.8 kg) far beyond its test flights, was recently taken over. One extend your mission To help persevere in the exploration of the terrain of Mars. Creativity will now fly over the surface of Mars, advising controllers to persevere on the most perfect routes.

Teddy Zanetos, Creative Director at JPL, said in a statement Declaration. “Every trip and every mile of distance traveled outside of our original 30-Mart mission has pushed the spacecraft to its limits on every Mars day.”

Currently, the team has come up with a plan to help the small helicopter survive the impending winter. The new orders issued “the point at which the helicopter operates its heaters from low battery to minus 5 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 15 degrees Celsius) to minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 40 degrees Celsius), according to NASA, which added. “The helicopter shuts down Then quickly, instead of consuming battery power with heaters.”

“Our main priority is to stay in touch with creativity in the coming days, but until then we know we will have big challenges ahead,” Tzanitos said. “We look forward to being able to top up the battery to return to nominal operations and continue our mission in the coming weeks.”

Even ignoring the call, the Ingenuity is still the small helicopter that can exceed expectations with a total of 28 flights recorded on Mars. It’s hard to believe now, but the original plan was for Ingenuity to make just five flights to the Red Planet.

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