Mars helicopter Ingenuity experiences anomaly on sixth flight, lands safely anyway

The Mars Ingenuity Helicopter accomplished its sixth flight final Saturday – although with a slight hiccup. 

In a weblog put up Thursday, NASA’s Southern California-based Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) detailed the occasions surrounding the in-flight “anomaly.” 


Ingenuity Mars Helicopter Chief Pilot Håvard Grip defined that the aim of the mission was to “increase the flight envelope and exhibit aerial-imaging capabilities by taking stereo pictures of a area of curiosity to the west.”

To take action, the rotorcraft climbed to an altitude of 33 ft earlier than translating 492 southwest at a velocity of 9 mph and once more shifting 49 ft south whereas taking pictures dealing with west. 

It then flew one other 164 ft northeast to land.

“Telemetry from Flight Six reveals that the primary 150-meter leg of the flight went off and not using a hitch. However towards the tip of that leg, one thing occurred: Ingenuity started adjusting its velocity and tilting backwards and forwards in an oscillating sample,” wrote Grip. 

“This habits continued all through the remainder of the flight. Previous to touchdown safely, onboard sensors indicated the rotorcraft encountered roll and pitch excursions of greater than 20 levels, massive management inputs, and spikes in energy consumption,” he added. 

In response to the put up, the anomaly occurred roughly 54 seconds into the flight when a glitch occurred within the pictures being delivered by the helicopter’s navigation digital camera inflicting a picture to be misplaced and for all pictures despatched later to have inaccurate timestamps.

This picture of Mars was taken from the peak of 33 ft (10 meters) by NASA’s Ingenuity Mars helicopter throughout its sixth flight on Might 22, 2021. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

“The ensuing inconsistencies considerably degraded the data used to fly the helicopter, resulting in estimates being always ‘corrected’ to account for phantom errors. Massive oscillations ensued,” Grip famous. 

Nevertheless, the historic helicopter persevered and was in a position to safely land inside 16 ft of the researchers’ goal touchdown location.

Grip credited the helicopter’s flight management system’s “ample ‘stability margin,'” which got here to Ingenuity’s rescue. 

As well as, the power to cease utilizing navigation digital camera pictures through the remaining part of descent was essential to serving to the helicopter degree its altitude and contact down on the Martian floor on the right velocity.

Whereas the sixth flight revealed “a timing vulnerability,” Grip pledged that the staff had and would study from the scenario. 

“Whereas we didn’t deliberately plan such a demanding flight, NASA now has flight knowledge probing the outer reaches of the helicopter’s efficiency envelope,” he stated. “That knowledge can be rigorously analyzed within the time forward, increasing our reservoir of data about flying helicopters on Mars.”


Ingenuity’s sixth flight comes as its fellow robotic, the Perseverance Mars rover, prepares for its personal expedition within the hunt for historical microbial life

The rover will accumulate and cache rock and sediment samples on the planet for a future return mission in partnership with the European House Company (ESA) within the early 2030s.

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