NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter has completed its ninth flight on Mars, which consisted of a high-speed trip through hostile terrain in which it flew away from the Perseverance rover.
Both the scout vehicle and the helicopter are at the eastern end of a region called Séítah. The last two Ingenuity flights had been scheduled to keep pace with the rover on its journey through this territory.
Rather than keep getting ahead, however, on this ninth flight, Ingenuity took a sort of shortcut through part of the Séítah region and landed on a plain to the south. Along the way, he took aerial color images of the rocks and ripples that he flew over.
This was possible as the Ingenuity was built to fly 625 meters at 5 meters per second and stayed in the air for 166.4 seconds.
According to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) that operates the mission, this effort also challenged the helicopter’s navigation algorithm.
#MarsHelicopter pushes its Red Planet limits. 🚁
The rotorcraft completed its 9th and most challenging flight yet, flying for 166.4 seconds at a speed of 5 m / s. Take a look at this shot of Ingenuity’s shadow captured with its navigation camera. https://t.co/TNCdXWcKWE pic.twitter.com/zUIbrr7Qw9
& mdash; NASA JPL (@NASAJPL) July 5, 2021
This algorithm allows Ingenuity to determine where it is along the flight path, and it was designed for a simple technology demonstration on flat terrain and has no design features to accommodate the steep slopes and undulations of Séítah.
These undulations can cause oscillations of a few meters in the helicopter’s altitude control, but according to managers, Ingenuity has flown enough above the ground that this situation does not become a problem.