NASA has announced that it's finally received a phone call from a helicopter that's currently stationed on another planet.
That helicopter is none other than Ingenuity, NASA's technology demonstration that arrived on the surface of Mars in February 2021 alongside the space agency's rover Perseverance. Ingenuity is the first human-made object that has taken flight on the surface of another planet, and since its first flight, it has been serving as a forward scout for Perseverance by taking photographs of the upcoming terrain, enabling NASA to map an efficient path for the rover.
However, NASA lost contact with Ingenuity after its 52nd flight, which occurred on April 26. While the flight was a success, NASA mission control wasn't able to communicate with the helicopter, with teams suspecting the communications dropout could be attributed to a Martian hill that stands between the helicopter and Perseverance. NASA's rover acts as a communications relay between NASA and Ingenuity, and on June 28, when Perseverance reached the summit of the hill, communications were finally re-established.
"The portion of Jezero Crater the rover and helicopter are currently exploring has a lot of rugged terrain, which makes communications dropouts more likely. The team's goal is to keep Ingenuity ahead of Perseverance, which occasionally involves temporarily pushing beyond communication limits. We're excited to be back in communications range with Ingenuity and receive confirmation of Flight 52," said JPL's Josh Anderson, the Ingenuity team lead
"Sixty-three days is a long time to wait for the results of a flight, but the data coming in indicates all is well with the first aircraft on another world. If the remainder of Ingenuity's health checks are equally rosy, the helicopter may fly again within the next couple of weeks," writes NASA