A navigation timing error sent Nasa’s Mars helicopter on a lurching ride, its first major problem since it took to the Martian skies last month. The Associated Press reports: The experimental helicopter, named Ingenuity, managed to land safely after the problem occurred, officials at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory said on Thursday. The trouble cropped up about a minute into the helicopter’s sixth test flight on Saturday at an altitude of 10 meters (33ft). One of the numerous pictures taken by an onboard navigation camera did not register in the system, confusing the craft about its location. Ingenuity began tilting back and forth by as much as 20 degrees and suffered power consumption spikes, according to Havard Grip, the helicopter’s chief pilot.
A built-in system to provide extra margin for stability “came to the rescue,” he wrote in an online status update. The helicopter landed within five meters (16ft) of its intended touchdown site. Grip wrote: “Ingenuity muscled through the situation, and while the flight uncovered a timing vulnerability that will now have to be addressed, it also confirmed the robustness of the system in multiple ways. While we did not intentionally plan such a stressful flight, Nasa now has flight data probing the outer reaches of the helicopter’s performance envelope.”