The last sixth flight of Ingenuity, the tiny helicopter operated on Mars as part of the actual NASA’s mission had a trouble because at a certain time the helicopter became confused about its own position. It managed however to land safely, but within 16 feet (5 meters) of its intended touchdown site. The trouble cropped up about a minute into the helicopter’s test flight last Saturday at an altitude of 33 feet (10 meters). It appeared because one of the numerous pictures taken by an on-board camera, used for orientation, did not register in the navigation system, throwing the entire timing sequence off. Ingenuity began tilting back and forth as much as 20 degrees and suffered power consumption spikes. Its mission on Mars is extended by at least a month.
NASA had planned to send the chopper on a scouting mission to snap aerial images of the landscape and land in a new spot. The first 490 feet (150 meters) of the flight went smoothly. Ingenuity is designed to take care of itself while in flight. It uses an inertial measurement unit (IMU) to track position, velocity and attitude (location, speed and orientation). “In a very real sense, Ingenuity muscled through the situation, and while the flight uncovered a timing vulnerability that will now have to be addressed, it also confirmed the robustness of the system in multiple ways,” wrote Havard Grip, Ingenuity chief pilot with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The error which occurred will be addressed by the specialists.