Ingenuity helicopter captures the traces the Perseverance rover left on the surface of Mars. Credit to NASA / JPL
NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter, built at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena and piloted by a Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, flew faster and farther on Sunday than all the tests it underwent on Earth, officials.
The helicopter took off at 4:31 a.m. Pacific Time – or 12:33 a.m. Mars local time – and soared 16 feet, the same height as its second flight on Thursday. Then it drove down 50 meters and reached a top speed of 2 meters per second.
Ingenuity’s team in Pasadena was sifting through a wealth of information gathered during the third flight that will provide information not only about additional Ingenuity flights, but also about possible Mars helicopters in the future.
“Today’s flight was what we planned, and yet it was nothing short of astonishing,” said Dave Lavery, the project’s program manager at NASA headquarters in Washington, DC. an aerial dimension for future Mars missions. “
The Ingenuity team pushed the limits of the helicopter by adding instructions to take more photos of its own – including from a color camera, which captured its first images on the second flight.
The helicopter’s black-and-white navigation camera, meanwhile, tracks its underground features, and Sunday’s flight put the processing of these images on board to the test. Ingenuity’s Snapdragon processor, which autonomously controls the device based on instructions sent hours before data is received on Earth, uses the same resources as the cameras.
More pictures are taken over greater distances. If Ingenuity flies too fast, the flight algorithm * cannot track surface functions.
“This is the first time we’ve seen the camera algorithm travel a long distance,” said MiMi Aung, the helicopter’s project manager at JPL. “You can’t do this in a testing room.”
The Ingenuity team is planning its fourth flight in a few days.