With all of the issues various spacecraft have had in the past couple of years, it’s nice to report on when something gets fixed. Of course, it helps that most of us didn’t know it was broken, to begin with, so yay for good news!
Last week, our favorite little Mars helicopter, Ingenuity, missed a planned communications session with the Perseverance rover. It was the first time an issue of this nature had occurred between the Mars-exploring pair, and as Percy is Ingenuity’s link to Earth, fairly troubling for the operations team.
But, as we said at the top of this story, the news is good. Ingenuity is talking to Percy again, and the ops team believes they have determined the cause of the anomaly. To very few people’s surprise, I’m sure, the answer was, as always, dust. The helicopter’s battery went into a low-power state because of diminished sunlight hitting the solar array. That triggered another array, which handles Ingenuity’s operational state, to power down. And that reset the internal clock and powered down the heaters. Oof.
Then the Sun came up, the solar array charged the batteries, everything turned back on, and that pesky clock was no longer synced with the one onboard Perseverance. The ops team set Percy to just listen for Ingenuity on May 5, caught the signal, and rejoiced that everything was back to nominal, for the moment.
There are growing concerns about how Ingenuity will manage during the oncoming Martian winter as the dust storm season approaches. The operations team is working on a plan that they hope will keep Ingenuity up and running. And team lead Teddy Tzanetos is optimistic, saying: Our top priority is to maintain communications with Ingenuity in the next few sols, but even then, we know that there will be significant challenges ahead. I could not be prouder of our team’s performance over the last year, let alone our aircraft’s incredible achievements on Mars. We are hopeful that we can accumulate battery charge in order to return to nominal operations and continue our mission into the weeks ahead.
Good luck, Ingenuity. Stay warm.