(ORDO NEWS) — According to Howard Grip, chief pilot of NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter on Mars, there was a sensor failure.
He described some of the difficulties the tiny robot faces in harsh environments, and also noted that a sensor failure would require a computer fix.
Ingenuity has been on Mars since February 2021 along with the Perseverance rover. Since then, he has made 28 flights, which is much more than planned.
The initial task of the device was to determine whether it is possible to fly on Mars by helicopter. Ingenuity has shown that this is possible – and much more.
His current missions typically involve surveying the landscape around Perseverance, helping chart his course.
Because the helicopter was not expected to last that long, no measures were taken to get enough solar energy during the short Martian winter days, Grip said.
Thus, he is forced to switch off at night. As a result, it is exposed to temperatures as low as -80°C, which can damage its electronics.
The helicopter, like any other device sent to Mars, has to contend with constant dust, the amount of which increases with the advent of winter.
Despite these conditions, Ingenuity held up remarkably well, Grip notes. However, the sensor needed to orient the helicopter before takeoff, called the inclinometer, stopped working.
But the team that created Ingenuity took this possibility into account and developed a patch to solve the problem even before the helicopter was on Mars.
The patch is designed to use information from other sensors and essentially tricks the helicopter into thinking it is getting data from an inclinometer. The patch will be sent and installed shortly. The team hopes that Ingenuity will resume flying soon after.
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