During its sixth flight across the desolate Martian surface earlier this month, NASA's Ingenuity Mars Helicopter experienced a bit of a software glitch.
The tiny four pound rotorcraft "began adjusting its velocity and tilting back and forth in an oscillating pattern" according to an official update, just after covering just over 500 feet.
The event forced it to make an emergency landing some 16 feet away from the intended touchdown site.
[...] Ingenuity is capable of adjusting control inputs 500 times per second thanks to a sophisticated inertial measurement unit (IMU) that can track its accelerations and rotation rates.
In addition to this IMU, Ingenuity uses its navigation camera to see where it is going and where it currently is. Unfortunately, 54 seconds into its sixth flight, a glitch occurred in the pipeline of images taken by this navigation camera, as Grip explained.
"This glitch caused a single image to be lost, but more importantly, it resulted in all later navigation images being delivered with inaccurate timestamps," Grip wrote in the update. That means the helicopter was "operating on the basis of incorrect information about when the image was taken."
Also at c|net
Never Say Never Again
NASA's Mars helicopter Ingenuity will take to the air again this weekend, if all goes according to plan.
Ingenuity's handlers are prepping the 4-lb. (1.8 kilograms) chopper for its seventh Martian flight, which will take place no earlier than Sunday (June 6). The plan is to send Ingenuity to a new airfield, about 350 feet (105 meters) south of its current location on the floor of Jezero Crater.
"This will mark the second time the helicopter will land at an airfield that it did not survey from the air during a previous flight," NASA officials wrote in an update on Friday (June 4). "Instead, the Ingenuity team is relying on imagery collected by the HiRISE camera aboard NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter that suggests this new base of operations is relatively flat and has few surface obstructions."
Data from the flight will be beamed home to Earth over the three days following the flight, they added.
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