Ingenuity, the helicopter has undertaken its ninth and “most nerve-wracking” flight since it first took off Mars. Full details about its accomplishment are not available; NASA only confirmed in a Tweet that that Ingenuity had completed the flight on July 5. According to the Tweet, the tiny chopper was airborne for 166.4 seconds and flew at 5 meters per second.
In a statement released before the flight, NASA shared that the helicopter would attempt to fly farther, faster, and higher than ever before, flying 625 meters at 5 meters per second and remaining airborne for approximately 167 seconds. This latest expedition took the helicopter over the Séítah region of Mars and away from Perseverance. The Séítah region is full of sandy ripples that are very challenging terrain for rovers.
According to Bob Balaram, chief engineer and Håvard Grip, chief pilot, for the Mars Helicopter Project at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, “This onboard algorithm which lets Ingenuity determine where it is along the flight path, was designed for a comparatively simple technology demonstration over flat terrain and does not have the design features to accommodate high slopes and undulations that are to be found in Séítah.”
Ingenuity could oscillate due to undulations, according to NASA. There could be abrupt changes in the slope paths, making it challenging to find the landing site because the camera assumes the ground is flat. According to Grip and Balaram in the pre-flight statement, there is a possibility that of this is a sizeable lateral error the cumulative effect at the destination landing site, with delivery errors of many tens of feet. They may end up landing on a more higher-relief, treacherous surface than the relatively benign, sandy patches they have been able to pick so far. It can be said that compared to Flight 1, it will be the most nerve-wracking flight.
According to NASA, during the flight, Ingenuity was expected to take color aerial images of the ripples and rocks it passed over, which would help the rover science team.