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[b]Better By the Dozen – Ingenuity Takes on Flight 12[/b]
Ingenuity's team is suiting up again for its next big challenging sortie, Flight 12. Taking place no earlier than Monday, Aug. 16 at 5:57 a.m. PDT, or 13:23 LMST (local Mars time), the 174th sol (Martian day) of the Perseverance mission, the flight will venture into the geologically intriguing "South Séítah" region (top yellow circle in graphic above).
[i][b]Above[/b]: This annotated image depicts the ground tracks of NASA’s Perseverance rover (white) and Ingenuity Mars Helicopter (green) since arriving on Mars on Feb. 18, 2021. The upper yellow ellipse depicts the “South Séítah” region, which Ingenuity is scheduled to fly over during its 12th sortie.[/i] (NASA/JPL-Caltech)
This latest effort will be similar to Flight 10, where we performed some location scouting for the Perseverance team of a surface feature called "Raised Ridges." But, Flight 12 has the potential to have more impactful results. Thanks to its newly enabled AutoNav capability, Perseverance is quickly moving northwest across the southern ridge of Séítah (white path) and will meet Ingenuity in the coming days. As a result, the timing of Ingenuity's Flight 12 is critical.
The plan is as follows: Ingenuity will climb to an altitude of 10 meters and fly approximately 235 meters east-northeast toward the area of interest in Séítah. Once there, the helicopter will make a 5-meter "sidestep" in order to get side-by-side images of the surface terrain suitable to construct a stereo, or 3D, image. Then, while keeping the camera in the same direction, Ingenuity will backtrack, returning to the same area from where it took off. Over the course of the flight, Ingenuity will capture 10 color images that we hope will help the Perseverance science team determine which of all the boulders, rocky outcrops and other geologic features in South Séítah may be worthy of further scrutiny by the rover.
This flight will be ambitious. Flying over Séítah South carries substantial risk because of the varied terrain. Ingenuity's navigation system – which was originally intended to support a short technology demonstration – works on the assumption that it is flying across flat (or nearly flat) terrain. Deviations from this assumption can introduce errors that can lead both to temporary excursions in roll and pitch (tilting back and forth in an oscillating pattern), as well as long-term errors in the helicopter's knowledge of its position.
When we choose to accept the risks associated with such a flight, it is because of the correspondingly high rewards. Knowing that we have the opportunity to help the Perseverance team with science planning by providing unique aerial footage is all the motivation needed.
[i][b]Above[/b]: Håvard Grip, chief pilot of NASA's Ingenuity Mars Helicopter, documents the details of each flight in the mission’s logbook, The Nominal Pilot’s Logbook for Planets and Moons, after each flight. Entries for Flights 9 and 10 are seen here.[/i] (NASA/JPL-Caltech)
We are filling out more pages in our pilot's logbook (the Nominal Pilot's Logbook for Planets and Moons) than we ever thought possible. So far, 11 pages have been completed with the statistics and observations of our flights. Before our campaign began, we were hoping for at least one, maybe up to three or four successful flights.
A couple of the things we like to keep an eye on in our logbook entries: Ingenuity has logged 19 minutes and approximately 1.2 nautical miles in the Martian skies (so far). We are happy to report all systems are green and that the helicopter is ready for continued flight operations. For Flight 12, we're not only aiming to add to those totals as we fill in another page of our logbook, but also hopeful that we'll get to include a mention in the book's Remarks section about how much this flight helped our colleagues working on Perseverance.
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