Footage from NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter’s navigation camera showed a small piece of foreign object debris (FOD) as it flew off the helicopter during its 33rd flight. This debris was not seen in the footage from its previous flight.
The debris resembles a cobweb or a toffee wrapper and can be seen as it flies off the helicopter during the time between the earliest frames and halfway mark of the footage. According to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, all of Ingenuity’s telemetry data is nominal and there is no sign of vehicle damage. But teams at the space agency don’t know where the debris originated from and are now investigating it.
Flight 33 was a short flight where the helicopter travelled a distance of approximately 111.23 metres at an average speed of 4.75 metres per second. It was aloft for a time of 55.61 seconds and went to a maximum altitude of 10 metres.
The Ingenuity Mars Helicopter is a small solar-powered rotorcraft that landed on the surface of Mars on February 19, 2021, along with the perseverance rover. It had its first flight shortly afterwards, on April 19. On that day, the helicopter took off, hovered and landed for a duration of 39.1 seconds, creating history as it was the first powered controlled flight on another planet.
The helicopter was grounded for a short while after Flight 29 on June 11. Ingenuity was temporarily grounded by NASA because it was winter and dust season on the planet. This meant that the helicopter could not derive enough solar energy to power its flights. In August, the helicopter was back in operation for Flight 30. Currently, Ingenuity is in the Jezero crater on Mars.