As a week of intense tension for the Mars Helicopter, Håvard F. Grip, the lead pilot for Helicopter ingenuity and Ken Williford, Associate Scientist at perseverance project, which is the time to prepare for the challenge that will be the ninth flight of the plane on Mars.
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“We uploaded the instructions for the flight, which took place on Monday, July 5 at 2:03 a.m. (Pacific time), and anxiously waited for results from Mars that morning. The mood in the control room on Earth was euphoric when we learned creativity was on. life and well after completing a trek that included 625 meters of challenging terrain,” NASA experts reported.
The tension was due to the fact that this was not a trip like the previous ones. It broke records for flight time and cruising speed, and quadrupled the distance traveled between two airports. But the most amazing thing was the terrain conditions that he had to overcome.
In two minutes and 46 seconds in the air, it passed through an area called “Séítah” that is difficult to traverse with a ground vehicle like a rover. determination. According to Grip and Williford, this ride is also designed explicitly for scientific value by providing a first up-close view of key objectives that the rover won’t reach for some time.
“On each of its previous flights, Ingenuity jumped from airport to airport on largely flat ground. When planning flights, we were also careful not to fly over a crater. We started by diving into a heavily eroded crater, and then continued to descend on sloping ground. and zigzag before climbing again to appear in a flat plain to the southwest, “experts commented NASA.
They point out that while it may seem odd that terrain details are important to a vehicle traveling in the air, the reason has to do with Ingenuity’s navigation system, originally designed for a short technical demonstration at a carefully selected test site.
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The helicopter’s navigation algorithm does not have the human perception or understanding of what you’re looking at. Look at the world in terms of individual and unknown properties, points that move with time, and try to explain the movement of those points. To make things easier for you, they programmed it to believe that all of these jobs are on flat ground.
This is why complications arise when they try to fly over land that isn’t really flat. Variations in terrain altitude can cause errors in the estimated heading, causing the helicopter to fly in a different direction than expected.
“The assumption that the Earth is flat is built into the design of the algorithm, and there is nothing we can do about that when planning flights. What we can do is anticipate and mitigate the problems that will arise as much as possible in terms of how we plan the flights and the parameters we give the program,” commented Grip and Williford .
That is why they used simulation tools to study in detail the possible outcome of the flight before it was carried out.
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“For Flight 9, the main adjustment to the flight plan was to reduce our speed at the tipping point when we sank into the crater. Although it came at the cost of extending flight time, it helped mitigate early heading errors that can occur in a major accidental error. We also tweaked some detailed parameters of the navigation algorithm that we didn’t have to touch yet on previous flights. We drilled an airport much larger than previous flights, with a radius of 50 metres. We ended up landing 47 meters from the center of that airport.”
Next week, Ingenuity is expected to send out color images that capture outcrops of rock showing connections between key geological units on the crater floor. the lake. They also include a system of fractures called the Raised Ridges team, which the scientists hope to visit in part to investigate whether an ancient underground habitat can be preserved there.
*With information from NASA
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