The Ingenuity helicopter has weathered a tough winter and is back flying, recently completing its 33rd flight since landing on Mars alongside the Perseverance rover in February 2021. The helicopter has been gradually making more flights since returning to operations after a break of June to August, completing Flight 31 on September 6, followed by Flight 32 on September 17 and Flight 33 on September 24.
For Flight 33, the helicopter covered more than 111 meters in just under a minute, and the helicopter headed toward the Jezero River Delta to rejoin the Perseverance rover.
over the weekend, #MarsHelicopter successfully completed Flight 33! The rotorcraft reached an altitude of 10 meters (33 ft) and traveled 111.24 meters (365 ft) in 55.2 seconds. If you look closely at this image, you’ll see Ingenuity’s leg and tiny shadow. pic.twitter.com/4UwPs1bAcV
— NASA JPL (@NASAJPL) September 27, 2022
However, there was an unexpected passenger during part of this flight, as an unknown piece of debris got caught around the leg of the helicopter. The foreign object debris (FOD) does not appear to be from the helicopter, so it is currently a mystery what it is made of and what its source might be.
The image below was taken by the helicopter’s navigation camera, called Navcam. You can almost see each of the helicopter’s upper legs in the very corner of the image, which are two of the four legs the helicopter sits on when on the ground. Attached to the leg on the right is a small piece of debris, which looks almost as if it could be plastic, though NASA says it’s not sure what the debris is or where it came from.
“All flight telemetry and a post-flight search and transfer are nominal and show no indication of vehicle damage,” wrote The NASA. “The Ingenuity and Perseverance Mars 2020 teams are working to discern the source of the debris.”