Ingenuity takes shortest flight in Martian aviation historical past

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NASA’s Ingenuity Mars helicopter not too long ago accomplished a “quick however important” flight lasting a mere 18 seconds — 13 seconds shorter than its debut flight on the purple planet in April 2021.

Regardless of the transient nature of the flight, the success of the quick hover simply 16 ft off the bottom efficiently examined two new and vital capabilities for the helicopter: hazard avoidance when touchdown, and the usage of digital elevation maps to help navigation.

“Ingenuity was developed as a know-how demonstration and designed to function on Mars in flat, easy terrain,” Joshua Anderson of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), which is overseeing the mission, defined in a put up concerning the plane’s most up-to-date flight.

The JPL group member mentioned that as Ingenuity continued its explorations of Jezero Crater alongside NASA’s Perseverance rover, each autos encountered more and more difficult terrain past what the group had been anticipating.

The brand new hazard-avoidance software program allows the helicopter to make use of its downward-facing navigation digicam to determine the most secure seen touchdown web site, permitting it to securely land amongst rockier terrain than earlier than, which implies extra potential touchdown websites for the diminutive drone-like machine.

“In prior flights, Ingenuity’s pilots have wanted to search out airfields freed from any rocks or different obstacles that would probably injury the automobile when touchdown,” Anderson mentioned. “Jezero Crater is a rocky place, so secure airfields have been powerful to search out.”

The digital elevation maps can even assist to remove an issue during which hilly terrain causes veering points for the helicopter as its navigation software program had solely been designed to deal with flat terrain.

“This new software program replace corrects this flat-ground assumption by utilizing digital elevation maps of Jezero Crater to assist the navigation software program distinguish between modifications in terrain and automobile motion,” Anderson mentioned. “This will increase Ingenuity’s accuracy, permitting the pilots to focus on smaller airfields going ahead.”

The group will now use the outcomes from Ingenuity’s quick and easy flight to start extra superior testing of the brand new capabilities to substantiate they’re working as designed.

Anderson mentioned the replace makes the plane “a much more succesful automobile and efficient scout for Perseverance,” including: “We’re all excited to see the place this replace will enable us to take Ingenuity’s journey subsequent.”

Ingenuity’s shortest flight happened on November 23 and was the plane’s thirty fourth so far. Its longest flight to date lasted 169.5 seconds throughout a mission in August 2021.

The helicopter has been serving to to search out secure routes for the ground-based Perseverance rover, which is spending its time trying to find proof of historical life on the distant planet, in addition to testing new applied sciences for future human missions to Mars.

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