NASA released photo of Ingenuity’s damaged blades after vertical flight #72 incident
On January 25, 2024, NASA released a photo of Ingenuity’s damaged blades after an incident during Vertical Flight #72. Project engineers reported that, despite the fact that the helicopter remains in a vertical position and maintains communication with the rover, the device can no longer fly. Judging by the photo, it leaned to one side during the fall and a part of the supporting elements was destroyed. Also, pieces of the casing of the device are visible on the surface.
Judging by the photos, there was a fall of “Ingenuity” from a small height to the surface. The helicopter’s outriggers were able to hold the craft, but there was probably a kickback or the Ingenuity fell sideways, plowing a small portion of the soil with the blades and breaking them. NASA has not yet understood why “Ingenuity” fell. The Perseverance rover has not yet been able to capture the helicopter on its cameras, but NASA will try to investigate this accident with the help of the rover. As soon as “Perseverance” departs from “Ingenuity” at a distance of more than 800-1000 meters, the helicopter will remain on Mars without communication and alone.
On January 22, 2024, NASA confirmed that part of Ingenuity’s on-board systems were operational after losing contact with the helicopter during vertical flight #72.
“Communication between “Ingenuity” and “Perseverance” rover has been restored. The team of engineers determined by telemetry that the helicopter has the necessary operation of power-positive elements and is located vertically on the surface. The next steps to return Ingenuity to service include conducting further diagnostic checks, commanding the helicopter to photograph its current location on the surface, as well as performing the necessary procedures to activate the motors and pass the blade rotation test,” NASA said.
Even then, the project engineers were not 100% sure that Ingenuity was standing on four legs and that it was not damaged after a possible fall from a small height. Technically, an abnormal situation could have occurred, related to a malfunction of the onboard systems, or the helicopter falling on supports that can withstand a certain load, for example, when falling from a height of 1-2 meters. When falling from a great height, the structure of the supports may collapse or they may spring and throw Ingenuity to one side.
Background to the Ingenuity incident during vertical flight #72
On January 21, NASA announced that engineers have re-established radio contact between Ingenuity and the Perseverance rover after communication was lost during the helicopter’s vertical test flight #72.
On January 18, NASA lost contact with “Ingenuity” after the helicopter performed the landing procedure during test vertical flight #72. Previously, communication between the rover and the helicopter was lost for some time due to natural obstacles that interfere with the radio channel. In the current case, Ingenuity did not perform a horizontal elimination, but only ascended 12 meters and landed on a relatively flat surface. Telemetry analysis showed that Ingenuity had successfully climbed to its designated maximum altitude of 12 meters. But during the planned descent, the communication between the helicopter and the rover was interrupted even before landing for an unknown reason.
On January 6, Ingenuity made flight #71 at 71 meters instead of the planned 360 meters due to a failure in the navigation system. This is the first flight of the helicopter in 2024. The total distance of “Ingenuity” flights on Mars is 17,030 meters. Flight #71 lasted 35 seconds instead of the planned 125 seconds. The purpose of the flight was to check the current capabilities of the helicopter, as well as to photograph objects for scientific research on the way. NASA engineers reported that the relatively indistinct terrain over which Ingenuity was flying (a sand bar with few or no rocks) proved to be a challenge for the upgraded version of its navigation system. Previously, “Ingenuity” received new navigation capabilities as part of tests of a new version of the helicopter control program and has already flown several times over a similar landscape without any particular problems.
On December 22, 2023, “Ingenuity” made flight #70 at 259 meters. This was the third consecutive flight of the helicopter in more than 6 days, during which it flew a distance of 1,666 meters. In December, NASA planned and carried out two high-speed “Ingenuity” flights, during which a special set of pitch and roll angles was implemented for the design of the helicopter (exceeding the initial capabilities). This test is designed to measure flight performance with critical parameters to understand the limits of the current device model. NASA also acknowledged the occurrence of fairly serious limitations on available energy and engine temperature problems during Ingenuity flights. The elements of the helicopter began to overheat much earlier than before, which reduces the possibility of long-term flights.
“The Perseverance rover is currently out of line of sight from Ingenuity, but its team may consider moving closer for a visual inspection by the helicopter,” – reported at NASA.
According to NASA, the Perseverance rover is currently performing its primary science mission and has traveled more than 24.1 km. “Perseverance” is located several hundred meters from “Ingenuity”.
On September 16, “Ingenuity” performed vertical test flight No. 59 with fixation above the take-off point and with a rise to a height of 20 meters. NASA showed a synchronous video of Ingenuity flight #59 from two cameras: a rover and a helicopter.
During this flight, NASA verified that Ingenuity can now land at speeds 25% slower (0.75 m/s) than originally built into its soft landing design (3.54 km/h or 0. 98 m). /c) without rebound and stable reception of signals to lock the rotors. Tests showed that at a landing speed of 0.75 m/s, the helicopter’s on-board sensors confirmed the landing and disengaged the propellers in normal mode.
During 72 missions and almost three years of operation, “Ingenuity” flew a total of 17,030 meters above the surface of Mars and spent 7,694 seconds (more than 128 minutes) in flight mode in the planet’s atmosphere. The device reached a ceiling of 24 meters and developed a maximum speed of 10 m/s. During all the flights, “Ingenuity” took hundreds of color photos and several thousand black-and-white pictures with the help of its cameras.
Photo of the state “Ingenuity” for two years of work on Mars.
According to current statistics, Ingenuity spent more than 30 times longer in operational mode on Mars than the estimated time: 1043 sols (Martian age), the same as the Perseverance rover, but 978 sols on the planet’s surface – autonomously. The helicopter was designed for 30 days of operation in Martian conditions after disembarking from the rover. It turned out that its capabilities allow you to fly even longer. In August 2021, NASA extended Ingenuity’s operation to 2022 and then to 2023 as a reconnaissance probe to capture possible obstacles from the air and select optimal paths for the rover. It was able to fly until the winter of 2023 and now its missions have been extended to the spring of 2024, if problems with communication, navigation sensors and battery are solved. Above it, NASA engineers began to conduct experiments on going beyond the established operational capabilities.
April 19, 2021 “Ingenuity” carried out the first autonomous flight, and the rover made and sent on Earth his video.