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NASA finds Ingenuity after losing contact with the Mars helicopter

An illustration from NASA shows the Ingenuity Mars helicopter on the red planet's surface near the Perseverance rover, left.
NASA
/
JPL-Caltech via AP
An illustration from NASA shows the Ingenuity Mars helicopter on the red planet's surface near the Perseverance rover, left.

NASA has lost contact with its beloved helicopter on Mars, Ingenuity.

Communications broke down on Thursday, when the little autonomous rotorcraft was sent on a "quick pop-up vertical flight," to test its systems after an unplanned early landing during its previous flight, the agency said in a status update on Friday night.

The Perseverance rover, which relays data between the helicopter and Earth during the flights, showed that Ingenuity climbed to its assigned maximum altitude of 40 feet, NASA said.

But during its planned descent, the helicopter and rover stopped communicating with each other.

The Ingenuity team is looking at next steps in attempts to restore communication with the helicopter, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory said in a tweet. Operators may drive Perseverance closer to where it lost contact with the helicopter.

It was the helicopter's 72nd flight. Ingenuity has already exceeded its original mission, having proven that powered, controlled flight is possible in the thin and frigid Martian atmosphere, in what NASA describes as an otherworldly "Wright brothers moment."

It's since graduated to a new phase, setting the stagefor future drone exploration on Mars and other worlds.
Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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