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A NASA Ingenuity drone may have lost one of its blades entirely

A NASA Ingenuity drone may have lost one of its blades entirely

As we know important NASA's Mars drone ingenuity Ended with flight 72.helicopterThe spacecraft, the first of its kind to fly to another planet, has proven capable of surpassing the initial mission of five flights in 30 days. In fact, engineers completed 72 flights covering a distance of more than 17 kilometers and flying for approximately 128.8 minutes, reaching a speed of 10 m/s and a maximum altitude of 24 metres. All values ​​that initially seemed unattainable Drone.

During Flight 71, the terrain configuration (with sand dunes) did not allow the navigation system to orient itself correctly. the Drone In fact, the Navcam needs to frame distinct elements, such as stones or certain terrain shapes, of the ground below the helicopter to allow the correct direction to be calculated. But in different cases, an emergency landing procedure is activated to avoid being in dangerous areas for subsequent operations.

NASA ingenuity

Navcam video where the shovel appears to be missing (source)

After losing their bearings during the 71st flight, engineers decided to choose the 72nd flight NASA ingenuity To implement a “basic” Vertical movement so you can find the right position and thus continue exploring the sandy area (while… NASA Perseverance He was participating in a scientific exploration campaign).

NASA drone

Unfortunately, during the 72nd flight, something did not go as expected, and the helicopter, although it did not flip during landing, damaged the blades beyond repair. Theodore (Teddy) Tzanitos (Director of the Ingenuity Project at JPL) previously stated that the damage visible in the first images ruled out the possibility of this occurring. NASA ingenuity To fly again.

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However, the engineer added that the goal these days is to understand what happened and take a photo with the vehicle NASA Perseverance. The photo actually arrived in early February and shows the drone leaning over a sand dune.

NASA ingenuity

Close-up of the possible missing blade (left) in this Perseverance image

However, it has been implemented in recent days Some tests (It was expected in the intervention of JPL engineers) that showed how the damage could be more serious than imagined. In fact, it looks like the tips of the blades Drone It could have broken by hitting the ground in the process Now it seems certain That at least one blade had come off completely.

NASA ingenuity They do not have advanced balancing systems and failure of part of the blades (or loss of one) effectively spells the end of the mission. No information has been released publicly yet about the most likely hypothesis that led to the failure but it is possible that one of the rotors had a problem that caused the failure. Blade separation And what follows from that Loss of ability to fly Follower Mars drone. In the coming weeks, JPL can provide an update on this when it has all the data and can simulate fault conditions.