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NASA regains contact with its helicopter on Mars

AYESHA RASCOE, HOST:

Have you ever lost your keys for a couple of days? Maybe your wallet? How about your autonomous helicopter?

(SOUNDBITE OF THOMAS NEWMAN'S "WALL-E")

RASCOE: Well, that's what happened to NASA last week. The space agency announced it had lost contact with Ingenuity, an autonomous helicopter conducting research on Mars. Ingenuity is the first aircraft to achieve powered, controlled flight on another planet and is also part of the agency's Mars Exploration Program, a long-term effort to explore the red planet. The space helicopter executed a flight that day to test its systems in what NASA called a quick pop-up vertical flight. It went up 40 feet, but on the way down, Ingenuity stopped communicating with Perseverance, a Mars rover that relays data between the helicopter and Earth during the flights. But after a tense couple of days, engineers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab in California received good news. Perseverance, the rover, reestablished contact with Ingenuity after it conducted what NASA calls long-duration listening sessions for Ingenuity's signal. See? Good things happen when we listen.

(SOUNDBITE OF THOMAS NEWMAN'S "WALL-E") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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