It might seem odd that the details of the surface would matter as much as they do for a car that travels through the air. The reason has to do with Ingenuitys navigation system and what it was originally created for: a quick technology demonstration at a carefully selected experimental test website.
When we as human beings look at moving images of the ground, such as those taken by Ingenuitys navigation camera, we quickly have a quite great understanding of what were looking at. Resourcefulness, nevertheless, doesnt have human understanding and understanding of what its looking at.
This map reveals the approximate flight course of NASAs Ingenuity Mars Helicopter during its ninth flight, on July 5. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
To make that task simpler, we gave Ingenuitys navigation algorithm some assistance: We informed it that those features are all situated on flat ground. That released the algorithm from trying to exercise variations in terrain height, and enabled it to focus on translating the movement of the features by the helicopters motions alone. Complications arise if we then try to fly over terrain that isnt really flat..
Differences in terrain height will cause features to cross the field of view at various rates, and Ingenuitys navigation algorithm still “presumes” the ground listed below is flat. It does its best to explain the motion of the features by modifications in the helicopters movements, which can lead to mistakes. Many substantially, it can result in errors in the approximated heading, which will trigger the helicopter to fly in a different direction than intended.
Getting all set for a bumpy flight.
The presumption about the ground being flat is baked into the style of the algorithm, and there is nothing we can do about that when preparing the flights. What we can do is to expect the issues that will develop due to this assumption and to reduce them to the greatest possible level in terms of how we prepare the flights and the specifications we give the software.
For Flight 9, an essential adaptation of the flight strategy was to lower our speed at the essential point when we dipped into the crater. It came at the cost of extending the flight time, it assisted mitigate early heading mistakes that might grow into a large cross-track position error. We also adjusted some of the detailed specifications of the navigation algorithm that we have not had to touch so far in previous flights.
In the week ahead, Ingenuity will return color images that Perseverances scientists are looking forward to studying. Captured in those images are rock outcrops that show contacts in between the significant geologic units on Jezero Craters floor. They also consist of a system of fractures the Perseverance team calls “Raised Ridges,” which the rovers scientists want to visit in part to examine whether an ancient subsurface environment may be protected there.
Lastly, were hoping the color images will supply the closest appearance yet at “Pilot Pinnacle,” a place including outcrops that some employee believe might tape-record some of the inmost water environments in old Lake Jezero. Provided the tight mission schedule, its possible that they will not have the ability to go to these rocks with the rover, so Ingenuity may offer the only opportunity to study these deposits in any detail.
Composed by Håvard F. Grip, Ingenuity Chief Pilot, and Ken Williford, Perseverance Deputy Project Scientist.
By Håvard F. Grip, Jet Propulsion Laboratory
July 8, 2021
Animation illustrating NASAs Ingenuity helicopter flying on Mars. Credit: NASA
It has actually been a week of heightened apprehension on the Mars Helicopter group as we prepared a major flight obstacle for Ingenuity. We uplinked guidelines for the flight, which happened Monday, July 5 at 2:03 am PT, and waited nervously for outcomes to show up from Mars later that morning. The mood in the ground control room was jubilant when we learned that Ingenuity was alive and well after completing a journey covering 2,051 feet (625 meters) of challenging surface.
Flight 9 was not like the flights that came before it. What really set the flight apart was the surface that Ingenuity had to work out during its 2 minutes and 46 seconds in the air– a location called “Séítah” that would be hard to pass through with a ground automobile like the Perseverance rover.
NASAs Perseverance Mars rover took this image ignoring the “Séítah” region utilizing its navigation cam. The firms Ingenuity helicopter flew over this area during its ninth flight, on July 5. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Flying with our eyes open
In each of its previous flights, Ingenuity hopped from one airfield to another over mostly flat surface. In planning the flights, we even took care to avoid overflying a crater. We started by dipping into what looks like a greatly eroded crater, then continued to come down over undulating and sloped terrain prior to climbing up once again to emerge on a flat plain to the southwest.
Flight 9 was not like the flights that came prior to it. What truly set the flight apart was the surface that Ingenuity had to negotiate throughout its 2 minutes and 46 seconds in the air– a location called “Séítah” that would be tough to pass through with a ground vehicle like the Perseverance rover. The companys Ingenuity helicopter flew over this area throughout its ninth flight, on July 5. In each of its previous flights, Ingenuity hopped from one airfield to another over mainly flat terrain. For Flight 9, a key adjustment of the flight plan was to decrease our speed at the vital point when we dipped into the crater.