Ingenuity's View of Sand Ripples During Flight 70
NASA's Ingenuity Mars Helicopter captured this view of sand ripples during its 70th flight, on Dec. 22, 2023. Taken from about 39 feet (12 meters) above the surface, the image shows the widest swath of sandy, relatively featureless terrain the helicopter had ever flown over.
Ingenuity navigates by tracking the relative motion of surface features it sees beneath it, using its black-and-white navigation camera. An algorithm used by the navigation system incorporates the relative motion of features such as rocks, boulders, and ridges into the helicopter's calculation of position, velocity, and attitude. The more featureless the terrain is, the harder it is for Ingenuity to successfully navigate across it.
During the descent phase of Flight 72, on Jan. 18, 2024, Ingenuity experienced an anomalous landing near the right side of this image. Subsequent imaging from the helicopter's onboard cameras indicated that one of the rotor blades was damaged during touchdown. The team believes that the relatively featureless terrain in this region, which the navigation system was not designed for, was likely the root cause of the anomalous landing.
The Ingenuity Mars Helicopter was built by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which manages the project for the agency. It is supported by NASA's Science Mission Directorate. NASA's Ames Research Center in California's Silicon Valley and NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, provided significant flight performance analysis and technical assistance during Ingenuity's development. AeroVironment Inc., Qualcomm, and SolAero also provided design assistance and major vehicle components. Lockheed Martin Space designed and manufactured the Mars Helicopter Delivery System. JPL is managed for the agency by Caltech in Pasadena, California.
For more information about the mission, go to https://mars.nasa.gov/technology/helicopter/.