Helicopter has flown to Mars again after surviving an emergency landing – Ars Technica

Zoom in / This view of NASA’s Mars Ingenuity Helicopter was created using data collected by the Mastcam-Z instrument aboard the agency’s Mars Perseverance rover on August 2, 2023.


By the standards of some of its previous flights, it was NASA’s latest daring flight cleverness A helicopter on Mars was nothing special. Over the course of 24 seconds, the mini-helicopter rose to a height of 5 meters above the dusty surface of the Red Planet and then descended again in the same place.

During some of her previous trips, cleverness It has flown for nearly three minutes at a time and traversed up to 700 meters across the Martian terrain. Indeed, after landing on Mars more than two years ago as part of the Perseverance mission, the helicopter is arguably one of the greatest feats of exploration NASA has ever accomplished.

task’s success cleverness It was completing five relatively short voyages. However, since its first test flight in April 2021, the helicopter has exceeded all expectations by flying more than 50 different sorties across Mars and surviving long and dark winters.

Despite its brevity, clevernessIts most recent flight on August 3, however, was a helicopter mission. This is because on its 53rd flight in late July, the helicopter automatically aborted a planned 136-second flight after only 76 seconds and made an emergency landing.

After the flight, the helicopter operators at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory determined that the premature landing came after images from Ingenuity’s navigation camera did not match data from the vehicle’s inertial measurement unit. In short, the on-board computer expected to see one thing, and saw another.

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“Since the first flight, we’ve included software called ‘LAND_NOW’ which is designed to put the helicopter on the surface as soon as possible if any one of a few dozen non-nominal scenarios is encountered,” said Teddy Zanetos, team lead Fakhry Innovations. He said. “During Flight 53, we encountered one of these, and the helicopter worked as planned and performed an immediate landing.”

This image of NASA's Mars Perseverance rover, seen at top right of center, was taken by the Mars Innovation helicopter during its 54th flyby on August 3, 2023.
Zoom in / This image of NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover, seen at top right of center, was taken by the Mars Innovation helicopter during its 54th flyby on August 3, 2023.


The helicopter flight last Thursday was intended to gather additional data about the conditions that led to the earlier flight ending early. After the most recent flight, Zanetos said the helicopter team feels confident Creativity can return to take on tougher missions soon.

There was another benefit of the short, upward mission. About 5 meters above the surface, the helicopter captured an image of the Martian terrain that included Perseverance at the top of the frame – an image somewhat desolate and hopeful at the same time.

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