NASA found out just how strong the Mars helicopter is in a shock test

NASA pilots were certainly stressed when the Mars helicopter 'Ingenuity' encountered an anomaly on its sixth test flight.

@JakConnorTT
Published Fri, May 28 2021 4:32 AM CDT   |   Updated Thu, Jun 24 2021 10:36 PM CDT

NASA has really seen what its Martian helicopter as it encountered a strange anomaly on its sixth flight test.

NASA found out just how strong the Mars helicopter is in a shock test 01 | TweakTown.com

On May 22, the Ingenuity helicopter took off for its sixth planned flight test on Mars, and while the mission was going according to plan at first, Ingenuity began to experience a glitch that caused the flow of images from its navigation camera to its onboard computer to be interrupted. Ingenuity chief pilot Havard Grip of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California wrote, "This glitch caused a single image to be lost, but more importantly, it resulted in all later navigation images being delivered with inaccurate timestamps."

Due to the navigation image timestamps being incorrect, whenever the navigation algorithm attempted to perform a correction, it was operating off the incorrect information of when the image was taken. As a result, "The resulting inconsistencies significantly degraded the information used to fly the helicopter, leading to estimates being constantly 'corrected' to account for phantom errors. Large oscillations ensued." said Grip.

Additionally, Ingenuity experienced spikes in power consumption but still managed to soldier on through landing within 16 feet of its originally intended landing location. Grip says that while NASA didn't plan to have such a stressful mission, it's actually a good thing because now NASA has data on how Ingenuity does when it's pushed to the very max of its performance.

"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," Grip wrote.

"While we did not intentionally plan such a stressful flight, NASA now has flight data probing the outer reaches of the helicopter's performance envelope," Grip added. "That data will be carefully analyzed in the time ahead, expanding our reservoir of knowledge about flying helicopters on Mars."

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Jak joined the TweakTown team in 2017 and has since reviewed 100s of new tech products and kept us informed daily on the latest science and space news. Jak's love for science, space, and technology, and, more specifically, PC gaming, began at 10 years old. It was the day his dad showed him how to play Age of Empires on an old Compaq PC. Ever since that day, Jak fell in love with games and the progression of the technology industry in all its forms. Instead of typical FPS, Jak holds a very special spot in his heart for RTS games.

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