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Mars helicopter flies again; encounters radio interference on 17th flight

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Mars helicopter flies again; encounters radio interference on 17th flight
NASA's tiny Mars helicopter Ingenuity weighs only about 4 pounds and stands just 1 foot, 7 inches high. Image courtesy of NASA

Dec. 8 (UPI) -- NASA's Mars helicopter Ingenuity flew successfully for its 17th time on the Red Planet, but encountered brief radio interference because of the hills between the aircraft and the Perseverance rover, the space agency reported.

"As Ingenuity began to descend, the line of sight between the rover and helicopter antennas [became] obstructed/shadowed" by the hilly terrain, Teddy Tzanetos, the Mars program lead, wrote in a blog post Tuesday evening.

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NASA released the information about the flight Tuesday and expects to receive more data about the flight Wednesday, according to Tzanetos.

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Ingenuity's Flight 17 on Sunday was 614 feet toward the northeast, reaching a height of about 33 feet. NASA did not immediately confirm the exact duration of the flight; most Mars flights have been about 2 minutes.

Terrain interfered only as the helicopter descended to its landing site on the floor of the South Séíitah region of Jezero Crater.

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Fifteen minutes later, Perseverance received data indicating that the helicopter was healthy and upright, Tzanetos wrote.

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NASA will use the flight data to plan for future radio interference.

"We will do all that we can in planning to prevent [interference] ..., but temporary loss of radio link is a natural part of helicopter operations at the Red Planet," Tzanetos wrote.

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NASA's Perseverance Mars rover, using its Mastcam-Z camera system, captured this view of the Martian sunset on November 9, 2021, the 257th Martian day, or sol, of the mission. Martian sunsets typically stand out for their distinctive blue color as fine dust in the atmosphere permits blue light to penetrate the atmosphere more efficiently than colors with longer wavelengths. But this sunset looks different: Less dust in the atmosphere resulted in a more muted color than average. The color has been calibrated and white-balanced to remove camera artifacts. Photo courtesy of NASA | License Photo

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