How NASA Ingenuity will survive the harsh Martian winter


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Winter is coming, at least on the red planet. And part of preparing for this tumultuous time on Mars is preparing the Ingenuity helicopter for freezing temperatures. After losing connection with the Mars helicopter for a short time, NASA has devised a new plan that should help it survive the Martian winter.

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NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter missed a communication recording

Image of NASA's Ingenuity Helicopter

Image of NASA’s Ingenuity Helicopter

NASA lost communication with the Ingenuity helicopter last week. However, the space agency managed to reestablish its connection with the Perseverance rover after the brief hiatus. It was the first time Ingenuity and Perseverance had failed to communicate since the pair landed in February 2021, according to NASA.

Ingenuity is essentially a partner of the Perseverance rover. It is also the first powered aircraft to operate on another world. Because he works so closely with Perseverance, he communicates daily with the rover to exchange data. On May 3, however, the helicopter missed this daily recording.

NASA believes larger amounts of dust in the air caused the Ingenuity helicopter to lose power overnight. This proceeded to reset the helicopter’s on-board clock, causing it to miss check-in time. Because it missed the check-in time, NASA then had to keep Perseverance in a waiting pattern to receive the check-in message.

Fortunately, it happened. But, as the Martian winter deepens, NASA expects temperatures to drop even further. In addition, the amount of dust in the atmosphere will most likely thicken as well. As such, the agency is taking further steps to help reduce any issues the Ingenuity helicopter may encounter.

How NASA is preparing for the Martian winter

March

March

Ingenuity has already survived far longer than NASA predicted. NASA only designed the Mars-based helicopter to explore for 30 sols. However, he explored much longer than those initial 30 sols. As such, it’s only a matter of time before the helicopter comes to a halt.

But that doesn’t mean NASA should give it up. And the space agency has no plans to either. In fact, he’s already found new ways to help the Ingenuity helicopter survive increasing dust storms and dropping temperatures.

NASA has sent new commands to the Ingenuity helicopter that should allow it to save energy. Part of this process was to lower the temperature at which the helicopter begins to power its heaters. Now, instead of energizing them at 5 degrees Fahrenheit, it will wait until -40 degrees Fahrenheit. This should help the battery retain its charge overnight.

Of course, there is concern that these new settings will endanger the internal components of the Ingenuity helicopter. Unfortunately, the team won’t know until the wintry weather sets in.

“Our top priority is to maintain communications with Ingenuity in the next few days, but even then we know there will be significant challenges ahead,” said Teddy Tzanetos, Ingenuity Team Leader of Jet Propulsion. NASA Laboratory in Southern California, in a NASA announcement.

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