NASA is trying to figure out how to get to the Ingenuity Mars lander after it lost contact with the craft earlier this week. During his 72nd flight – a “rapid drop” to an altitude of about 40 feet – NASA Ingenuity said it ended communication with the Perseverance rover earlier than intended. It went quiet on Thursday, and as of Thursday, NASA still hadn’t heard from him.
Ingenuity sends its data to Perseverance, which then relays it to Earth. According to NASA, the small helicopter completed the ascent as planned but lost contact on the way back. “The recovery team is analyzing the available data and considering next steps to restore contact with the helicopter,” NASA said in a status update on Friday. Invention completed the flight earlier than originally planned, and Thursday’s ride was intended to “test the helicopter’s systems.”
Ingenuity has been on the red planet since 2021, when it arrived with the Perseverance rover. And it far exceeds mission objectives. NASA initially hoped that the experimental helicopter could complete several flights; it flew more than 20 times during its first year of operation. The space agency officially extended the mission to 2022 and has since made dozens more successful flights. Ingenuity is the first aircraft to fly over the surface of Mars.