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Sun, Nov 12, 2023

Ingenuity Makes a Twofer

65th and 66th Martian Flights Made Back-to-Back

NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter made a pair of flights in preparation for a coming span where it will remain out of comms with home base.

Flight number 65 on November 2nd saw the little helo take a 48-second jaunt for 23 feet, followed the next day by a 23 second flight of 2 feet. The flights, according to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, prepared the Mars Helicopter for the upcoming Mars Solar conjunction, when mission teams will put a moratorium on all remote commands for a 2-week period.

The conjunction occurs roughly every 2 years, making communications unreliable as the sun remains interposed between Earth and Mars. Instead of risking partial or degraded commands, it’s easier to park things for a bit and let the weather improve. NASA says that the conjunction is seen by some as a nice, nature-enforced pause.

“While that may seem risky, automatic pilot has come a long way. Engineers have become skilled at letting spacecraft be on their own. Like parents who raise youngsters to be responsible and let them go on a short vacation with their friends, they've done all they can to ensure the voyagers will be healthy and safe. Before solar conjunction, the mission team sends up any necessary commands. Many then consider it an opportune time to take a few, well-deserved vacation days.”

FMI:www.mars.nasa.gov

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