(ORDO NEWS) — NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter took off into the skies of the Red Planet for the 17th time over the weekend, but we’ll have to wait a little longer to get a full report of its flight.
The helicopter, weighing 1.8 kilograms, appears to have reached all of its targets during its 187-meter climb on December 5. But communication between Ingenuity and its robotic partner, NASA’s Perseverance rover, was disrupted during the helicopter landing, mission team members said. All Ingenuity data and photographs are transmitted first to the Perseverance rover and then to Earth via the Martian orbiter.
“All available telemetry during and after the flight indicates that the operation was successful and that the loss of communication was due to a complex radio configuration between the rover and the helicopter during landing,” wrote Teddy Zanetos, team leader at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory at NASA. Southern California, on their December 7th blog.
“However, before planning our next flight, we need to transmit the missing flight 17 data, from the helicopter to the rover and then to Earth, so that we can confirm that the vehicle is operational,” added Tsanetos.
Two factors appear to have led to the termination of the relationship, Canetos explained. One of them was the terrain: when the Ingenuity helicopter descended to the landing site, in terms of Perseverance, it was hampered by a hill 4 meters high, which the team calls Bras.
Another problem was the orientation of the rover. Ingenuity’s radios had to traverse most of the rover’s length, including its radioisotope thermoelectric power generator.
“When we originally planned Flight 17, we assumed that the rover would be parked in a specific location and oriented in a specific direction,” Tsanetos wrote. “However, the rover’s plans are changing day by day to maximize the overall return to science. By the time Flight 17 was ready for flight, the rover had moved into a new location and parked along a difficult direction for radio communications.”
The team received the first data from the helicopter on December 5, and then another batch on December 8. All indications are that the helicopter is healthy and stable, Tsanetos wrote.
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