Ingenuity Martian helicopter made an emergency landing

NASA has revealed details about the recent emergency flight of the Ingenuity drone. In its course, it made an unplanned landing.

Ingenuity helicopter drone in the Perseverance rover image (lower part of the frame). Source: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU/MSSS

On July 22, Ingenuity rose into the Martian sky for the 53rd time. The purpose of the flight was to explore the terrain for the Perseverance rover. The complex flight path included moving north by 203 meters at an altitude of 5 meters and at a speed of 2.5 meters per second, then a vertical descent to 2.5 meters, where the helicopter had to hover and get images of a rocky ledge. Then Ingenuity had to climb to a height of 10 meters, activate the warning system for dangerous objects on the surface, and then descend and land. 

Instead, the helicopter covered only the first half of the route. It flew 142 meters, moving at a height of 5 meters. Then Ingenuity triggered the LAND_NOW program, activated in case of an emergency, after which it landed. The total flight time was 74 seconds.

After analyzing the telemetry, NASA experts came to the conclusion that everything happened due to the fact that the images from the helicopter’s navigation camera were not synchronized with the data of the inertial measuring spacecraft. This is not the first such case. A similar incident occurred during the sixth flight of Ingenuity in May 2021. After that, the helicopter received a patch to mitigate the effects of “missed” navigation camera images. The fix worked well on the next 46 flights. However, on flight 53, the number of unsynchronized navigation images exceeded the maximum permissible limit. 

At the same time, although Ingenuity failed to complete the flight tasks, it is in good condition. Engineers confirmed this already on August 2, when the helicopter again rose into the Martian sky. The purpose of the new flight was to test the drone’s systems, as well as photographing the immediate surroundings to understand exactly where it landed. The mission was a success. The drone rose into the air to a height of five meters and returned to the take-off site 24 seconds later.

A picture of Mars taken by the Ingenuity helicopter drone during the 54th flight. In the upper part of the frame, you can see the Perseverance rover. Source: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU/MSSS

One of the pictures taken during this flight revealed something interesting. The Perseverance rover got into the picture. The emergency termination of the flight led to the fact that the rover and Ingenuity got closer to a record distance since 2021 (less than 15 meters) and were able to photograph each other.

According to

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