NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter took this picture on May 22, 2021 with its black and white navigation camera. This camera is mounted in the fuselage of the helicopter and pointed straight down to track the ground during flight. NASA / JPL-Caltech
NASA is planning the seventh flight of the Mars helicopter Ingenuity for tomorrow, Sunday, June 6th. The tiny helicopter has shown that it is possible to fly an airplane on another planet and has made a series of increasingly complex flights to test its skills. Now it will move to a new location that will serve as the new location.
Ingenuity’s last flight, which was on May 22nd a few weeks ago, was a problematic one. The helicopter took off and began moving as expected, but after about a minute of flight a number of anomalies appeared. The helicopter changed speed, leaned back and forth, and showed peaks in its power consumption. Fortunately, it was still able to land safely and suffered no damage. In a report on the incident, NASA said there was a flaw in the helicopter’s motion system that kept it stable in the air by using its cameras to map the ground below. A single camera image was lost, which resulted in subsequent images having the wrong timestamp, which led to the problems.
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which operates the Ingenuity helicopter, didn’t say whether the underlying problem has still been fixed. The team is probably confident that the helicopter will be able to fly safely on the next flight.
On the seventh flight, the helicopter will be relocated to a new home base – the second time it has relocated its bases since it began operations on Mars. NASA writes: “Ingenuity will send the flight profile to a location approximately 350 feet (106 meters) south of its current location, where it will touch down at its new base of operations. This is the second time the helicopter has landed on an airfield that it had not measured from the air in a previous flight. Instead, the Ingenuity team is relying on images collected by the HiRISE camera aboard NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, which suggest that this new base of operations is relatively flat with few surface obstructions. ”