Since we last covered Ingenuity, shortly after its sixth flight, it has been hard at work exploring the Martian surface. Ingenuity has certainly proved useful to Martian exploration, making these flights look routine.

Ingenuity Flight 7

On June 8th, Ingenuity made its seventh flight. Covering about 350ft over 62 seconds. This seventh flight came with another problem. The watchdog timer issue, that we first covered back in April, was still causing trouble. While the team had implemented a workaround, according to a blog post, they still had a 15% chance of needing re-attempts. The flight itself, however, was uneventful. The flight covered 350 feet over about a minute, as the helicopter took off from Airfield C and landed at Airfield D.

Ingenuity Flight 8

On June 18th the Ingenuity team updated the helicopter’s software for a permanent fix to the watchdog timer issue. Three days later, following a slow-speed spin test, the eighth flight of Ingenuity confirmed the success. The flight lasted 78 seconds as the helicopter traveled the 525 feet to Airfield E.

The issue with flight 6, where a missing image caused the helicopter to oscillate, has still not been entirely resolved. The Ingenuity team believes that capturing the color images may have caused the glitch, so they did not capture color imagery during flight 7 or 8. The teams implemented a mechanism for detecting and correcting for the lost images prior to flight 9.

Ingenuity Flight 9

On July 5th, NASA JPL shared an image taken from the Mars Helicopter during flight, announcing that it had successfully completed the most challenging flight yet.

This flight broke time, speed, and distance records. Flying for 166 seconds, and covering a distance of over two thousand feet, the helicopter took a shortcut directly over rugged terrain. In a blog post prior to the flight, Håvard Grip and Bob Balaram, the Chief Pilot and Chief Engineer for Ingenuity described this as the, “most nerve-wracking flight since Flight 1”.

We haven’t yet seen a full status update on the flight, so we are waiting to hear more about the results of the software changes and, hopefully, color images.

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