PANIC Nasa scientists breathed a sigh of relief after their multimillion-dollar helicopter on Mars was mysteriously silent for two days.
Experts feared the worst as the $80 million Ingenuity helicopter felt the wrath of the red planet’s vicious dust and extremely cold conditions.
The tiny robot stopped communicating with Earth on May 3.
However, the space agency has announced that contact was re-established on May 5th.
Space nerds believe it has been hit by a seasonal increase in the amount of dust in the Martian atmosphere, as well as falling temperatures in the run-up to winter.
The dust prevents the tech from catching sunlight, which powers it.
It caused Ingenuity to go into a low power mode, causing its clocks to become out of sync with the Perseverance rover on the ground.
This meant the base station wasn’t listening when the helicopter thought it was time to send data to the rover.
But Nasa warns it’s not “out of the woods” just yet.
Experts say the persistent pesky dust will wreak even more havoc on Ingenuity.
“We always knew that the Martian winter and dust storm season would present new challenges for Ingenuity, specifically colder brines (sunny day on Mars), an increase in atmospheric dust, and more frequent dust storms,” warned Ingenuity team leader Teddy Tzanetos.
“Each flight and mile traveled beyond our original 30-sol mission has pushed the spacecraft to the limit on each and every sol on Mars.
“Our top priority is to maintain communication with Ingenuity over the next few sols, but even then we know there will be significant challenges ahead.
“I couldn’t be prouder of our team’s performance over the past year, let alone the incredible performance of our aircraft on Mars.
“We hope to accumulate battery charge to return to nominal operation and continue our mission in the coming weeks.”
Ingenuity and Perseverance have now spent well over a year on the Red Planet, having arrived together in February 2021.
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https://www.thesun.ie/tech/8773179/nasa-mars-ingenuity-helicopter-loses-contact/ NASA’s Mars Helicopter loses contact for two days after being hit by virulent dust and plummeting temperatures