NASA Ingenuity Encounters Anomaly on Its Sixth Flight on Mars

After completing its one-way trip to another base on Mars, NASA's Ingenuity little helicopter was ready for its newly-appointed aerial scouting job. However, on its sixth flight, things didn't go as smoothly as they did for the rotorcraft's previous flights.
NASA Ingenuity snaps a photo 33 feet (10 meters) up during its sixth flight on Mars 1 photo
Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Ingenuity made history on April 19th by demonstrating that controlled flight in the very thin atmosphere of the Red Planet is possible. After that, the helicopter successfully completed five more tests in which it flew farther and higher each time. Its last flight was part of the aircraft's transition to its new aerial scouting job, which saw the aircraft perform a one-way trip to the south from the Wright Brothers Field region on Mars.

Now, for its sixth flight, Ingenuity was assigned with the task of snapping some stereo images of a region to the west. The rotorcraft flew up to 33 ft (10 meters), and for its first 492 ft (150 meters) to the southwest, everything worked properly. It was moving at a ground speed of 9 mph (14 kph) when, almost a minute into the flight, it started to wobble mid-air due to an image processing issue.

This anomaly lasted until Ingenuity was able to power through the final part of its 705 ft (215 meters) journey to land safely on the ground within approximately 16 ft (5 meters) of the initially planned landing spot.

According to NASA, the helicopter's design and various components, including the rotor system, actuators, and power system, were key elements that allowed it to maintain flight and not crash. The researchers' team also stopped using navigation camera images during this anomaly to ensure stable motion estimates. Luckily, Ingenuity is now safe and ready for its next flight.

"While we did not intentionally plan such a stressful flight, NASA now has flight data probing the outer reaches of the helicopter's performance envelope. That data will be carefully analyzed in the time ahead, expanding our reservoir of knowledge about flying helicopters on Mars.", notes Havard Grip, Ingenuity Mars Helicopter Chief Pilot at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

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About the author: Florina Spînu
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Florina taught herself how to drive in a Daewoo Tico (a rebadged Suzuki Alto kei car) but her first "real car" was a VW Golf. When she’s not writing about cars, drones or aircraft, Florina likes to read anything related to space exploration and take pictures in the middle of nature.
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