Mars Helicopter Suffers From a Dead Sensor, but NASA Is Working on a Fix

 

This story is a part of Welcome to Mars, our sequence exploring the purple planet.

 

NASA’s Ingenuity Mars helicopter has accomplished all the pieces it got down to do and far, way more. Will its legacy of flight be prolonged? The rotorcraft’s workforce is coping with a severe technical challenge, but it is hoping a software program patch may also help.

Ingenuity — the flying companion to NASA’s Perseverance rover — is making an attempt to outlive wintry circumstances within the Jezero Crater. It was initially constructed to show that powered, managed flight was attainable on Mars. The helicopter achieved that feat in April 2021. It has since flown 28 occasions The colder and shorter days at the moment are taking a toll, although, inflicting the solar-powered chopper to close down in a single day and expose its parts to frigid temperatures.

During current preparations for an additional flight, the Ingenuity workforce found the helicopter’s inclinometer, a navigation sensor, had stopped working.

“A nonworking navigation sensor feels like a huge deal — and it’s — but it is not essentially an finish to our flying at Mars,” Ingenuity chief pilot Havard Grip said Monday in a status update.

Ingenuity makes use of a suite of sensors to determine the place it’s in house, data that is wanted for takeoff, flight and touchdown.

“The inclinometer consists of two accelerometers, whose sole objective is to measure gravity previous to spin-up and takeoff; the path of the sensed gravity is used to find out how Ingenuity is oriented relative to the downward path,” Grip mentioned. Fortunately, the inclinometer knowledge is not wanted in the course of the precise flights.

The rotorcraft wants a totally different technique to get the identical data the inclinometer would have offered. The rotorcraft workforce’s intelligent repair includes utilizing a totally different sensor to deal with the damaged sensor’s duties. To try this, the workforce is sending Ingenuity a software program patch.

Even higher, Ingenuity’s handlers thought one thing like this would possibly occur.

“Anticipating that this case might probably come up, we ready the required software program patch previous to final yr’s arrival on Mars and stored it on the shelf for this eventuality,” Grip mentioned.

If might take a few days to put in and take a look at the patch, but NASA hopes the chopper will take to the Martian skies “within the close to future” for flight No. 29, which might assist maintain it in communication with Perseverance because the rover explores an intriguing delta area.

Ingenuity has survived a sequence of technical glitches throughout its time on Mars, so hope is warranted as soon as once more.


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