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Ingenuity aces seventh flight as engineers push for operations phase post-mid-air glitch on Mars

During the seventh flight, the rotorcraft landed on a new landing ground, an area that was previously not surveyed by the craft or the Perseverance rover.

Ingenuity

Ingenuity took this black-and-white navigation photo during flight. (Photo: JPL)

Weeks after suffering a mid-air glitch on the way to its new landing ground, the Ingenuity Helicopter on Mars successfully completed its seventh flight. The helicopter’s latest sortie was part of the operation demonstration phase that the engineers at Joint Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) are conducting.

During the seventh flight, the rotorcraft landed on a new landing ground, an area that was previously not surveyed by the craft or the Perseverance rover. The rotorcraft logged a 62.8 seconds flight time as it travelled 106 meters south to a new landing spot. Since the new landing area was not surveyed, the Ingenuity team relied on imagery collected by the HiRISE camera aboard Nasa’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

The orbiter had suggested a flat area with few obstructions as the new base of operations.

The helicopter had earlier encountered an ‘anomaly’ midair and lost navigational pattern as it transitioned into the operations demonstration phase on the Red Planet during its sixth flight. Towards the end of the sortie on May 27, Ingenuity began adjusting its velocity and tilting back and forth in an oscillating pattern and telemetry suggested that Ingenuity went through a surge in power consumption, and encountered roll and pitch excursions of over 20 degrees.

The rotorcraft logged a 62.8 seconds flight time. (Photo: JPL)

The glitch caused a disruption in the images being delivered by Ingenuity’s navigational camera. JPL said that the glitch caused a single image to be lost, resulting in later navigation images being delivered with inaccurate timestamps. Due to this, the navigation algorithm, which controls the helicopter’s movement based on the images, began operating on incorrect data.

Also Read: In a first, Perseverance Mars rover makes oxygen on another planet

However, the engineers have been able to fix the glitch and the latest liftoff went without a hitch on the planet nearly 233 million kilometres away.

The aircraft that rolled out of the belly of the Perseverance rover onto the Martian surface has withstood extreme temperatures on the rugged planet, showcasing the engineering marvel.

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