Even earlier than the top of Ingenuity’s major mission as a expertise demonstrator, the helicopter confirmed that it might present tactical and scientific scouting for the Perseverance mission. In apply, this hasn’t all the time been potential, however Ingenuity has certainly confirmed its price on quite a lot of events over the course of the mission. As talked about in a earlier put up, the crew was trying ahead to doing this but once more because the rover made the lengthy ascent up the Jezero delta.
Flight 46 had put Ingenuity nearby of the scientifically vital Tenby area, however quite a lot of minor points delayed the execution of Flight 47, permitting Perseverance to catch as much as the helicopter. This precluded any close-up scouting flights of Tenby, as they’d require Ingenuity to fly over the rover’s path, presenting an unacceptable danger to each automobiles. As an alternative, the Ingenuity crew tried to picture Tenby from a distance because the helicopter moved farther up the delta on Flight 47. The sector of view of Ingenuity’s Return to Earth (RTE) digital camera is pointed diagonally downward, capturing a comparatively slim vary from barely above the horizon to roughly 40 levels under. This slim field-of-view permits the digital camera to take fantastically detailed photographs of the Martian floor however leaves little room for error in focusing on. For the reason that helicopter’s perspective (yaw, pitch, roll) naturally fluctuates in response to exterior elements throughout flight, options close to the boundaries of the deliberate picture are sometimes left outdoors the precise body. Options which might be distant are invariably close to the horizon, and thus near the sting of the digital camera’s body and tough to seize reliably. This problem got here into play on Flight 47, with the tried Tenby scouting photographs simply narrowly lacking the primary space of curiosity. The picture the heli crew hoped to impress the rover science crew with was hidden from view by just some levels. Whereas these photographs had been supplied to the science crew prematurely of the rover’s arrival, they had been sadly of little sensible worth.
The circumstances had been way more favorable for Flight 48. Perseverance deliberate to spend a minimum of two weeks at Tenby, adopted instantly by an exploration of two different deliberate places simply to the west: Castell Henllys and Foel Drygarn. Scientists had been understandably desirous to make their plan for these areas and requested for superior reconnaissance of Castell Henllys from the Ingenuity crew. With the rover’s shut proximity yielding good telecom energy, and no considerations about crossing the rover’s path, the stage was set for a great science scouting flight. Certain sufficient, Ingenuity’s forty eighth flight produced a treasure trove of aerial photographs displaying the precise space of curiosity at a decision a number of orders of magnitude higher than something prior. All of those photographs had been downlinked to Earth and supplied to rover planners and scientists a full two weeks earlier than the rover would attain this space. For the primary time for the reason that begin of the Delta Marketing campaign, the crew had discovered science success, setting the template for future collaboration with mission scientists.
Scientists thought-about aerial imaging of the third science space, Foel Drygarn, to be of minimal worth, so the crew selected to ship the helicopter farther up the delta fairly than carry out further scouting flights within the area. This plan was delayed by two aborted flight makes an attempt, the primary resulting from excessive winds cooling the battery under pre-flight-check ranges, and the second resulting from a minor command sequencing difficulty. On the third try, Ingenuity made its forty ninth flight on Mars. The Steering Navigation and Management crew as soon as once more managed to push the flight envelope with a 16-meter vertical popup on the finish of the flight. On the peak, Ingenuity snapped the very best suborbital image taken of the Martian floor since touchdown, with hopes of viewing the inside southern wall of Belva crater (one thing Perseverance had deliberate to skip resulting from time constraints). The crew accomplished a switch exercise to retrieve this picture (amongst others), however as soon as once more, the gap to the crater ensured that it remained hidden simply off the highest fringe of the body.
The place’s the helicopter?
That downlink was the final time the crew would hear from the helicopter for an agonizingly very long time. Desirous to proceed up the delta, the crew tried and didn’t uplink the directions for Flight 50 a number of occasions. Sol after sol, the helicopter remained elusive. Every time, the downlinked telemetry from the Helicopter Base Station (HBS) on the rover would come again displaying no radio signal of the helicopter.
For the reason that first post-winter in a single day “survival” on Sol 685, the helicopter had sadly been drifting out and in of nighttime survival mode (having sufficient energy to keep away from in a single day brownouts). As mentioned in a earlier put up, in a single day brownouts result in uncertainty in Ingenuity’s wakeup time, which make planning a lot tougher. The brand new transitional energy state made morning wakeup occasions much more tough to foretell, with giant fluctuations because the helicopter’s energy state neared its in a single day survival threshold. Constraints with rover energy and instrument scheduling typically prevented the crew from looking out your entire wakeup vary each morning. Unsurprisingly, the crew had spent a considerable variety of sols shedding, trying to find, after which reacquiring the helicopter over the previous a number of weeks.
Thus, the crew was not overly involved when communication was misplaced with the helicopter on Sol 755. Customary apply had been to methodically search subsets of the anticipated wakeup window over the course of a number of sols, finally increase sufficient protection to catch the helicopter’s wakeup. Shortly after the missed communication on Sol 755, the rover moved to a location instantly southeast of Castell Henllys to start an in depth scientific investigation of the realm. This positioned it in a deep communications shadow created by the rocky outcrop. Because the crew continued to cowl the nominal search window with out success, the thought that this is likely to be a communications difficulty continued to assuage important concern. When the rover emerged from the communications shadow on its strategy to Foel Drygarn and the helicopter was nonetheless nowhere to be discovered, the scenario started to generate some unease. We continued widening the search home windows whereas doing ever higher psychological gymnastics to attempt to clarify how the helicopter would possibly plausibly get up at these hours. Poor telecom efficiency was seen as a believable rationalization, however there have been causes to doubt it. In additional than 700 sols working the helicopter on Mars, not as soon as had we ever skilled a complete radio blackout. Even within the worst communications environments, we had all the time seen some indication of exercise. This was a psychological competitors between two equally unlikely and unprecedented explanations.
Lastly, on Sol 761, almost every week after our first missed check-in, our communications crew noticed a single, lonely radio ACK (radio acknowledgement) at 9:44 LMST (Native Imply Photo voltaic Time), precisely the time after we’d count on to see the helicopter wakeup. One other single ACK on the identical time on Sol 762 confirmed that the helicopter was certainly alive, which got here as a welcome aid for the crew. In the end, this first-of-its-kind communications blackout was a results of two elements. First, the topology between the rover and the helicopter was very difficult for the radio utilized by Ingenuity. Along with the aforementioned communications shadow, a average ridge situated simply to the southeast of the Flight 49 touchdown web site separated the helicopter from the rover’s operational space. The impression of this ridge would solely abate as soon as the rover had gotten uncomfortably near the helicopter. Second, the HBS antenna is situated on the correct aspect of the rover, low sufficient to the deck to see important occlusion results from numerous a part of the rover.
Prepared or not, right here the rover comes
On Sol 762, not lengthy after the radio ACK was acquired by the HBS, the rover concluded its investigation of Foel Drygarn, turned, and commenced an aggressive dash up the delta. It was now closing the gap with the helicopter at full pace. This offered a critical dilemma to the helicopter crew. As talked about in earlier posts, this can be very vital for Ingenuity to remain forward of Perseverance whereas shifting by way of the slim channels of the Jezero delta. The rover was now slated to convey the helicopter contained in the 45-meter no-fly zone throughout the subsequent sol. Regardless of having not talked to the helicopter in every week, and solely the realizing roughly when to count on it to get up, the crew now wanted to uplink a flight or danger being handed. Counting on the helicopter’s onboard preflight checks to make sure automobile security and banking on strong communications from the rover’s imminent proximity, the crew uplinked the flight plan. As commanded, Ingenuity wakened and executed its fiftieth flight on the crimson planet, masking over 300 meters and setting a brand new altitude report of 18 m. The rover had closed to a mere 80 meters by the point the helicopter lifted off within the Martian afternoon Solar. It will be an understatement to say that the helicopter crew was relieved to see the profitable flight telemetry within the Sol 763 downlink the next morning.
Regardless of the approaching return of Martian summer season, it now seems that the mud masking our photo voltaic panel will be certain that Ingenuity will probably stay on this transitional energy state for a while. Because of this, a lot to the chagrin of her crew, we’re not but completed enjoying this high-stakes sport of disguise and search with the playful little helicopter.