NASA reschedules Ingenuity’s first flight to Mars for April 19

NASA's Ingenuity Mars helicopter is seen here in close-up taken by Mastcam-Z, a pair of zoomable cameras aboard the Perseverance rover.

NASA’s Ingenuity Mars helicopter is seen here in close-up taken by Mastcam-Z, a pair of zoomable cameras aboard the Perseverance rover.
Photo: NASA / JPL-Caltech / ASU

NASA has given an eager audience a new date for the Ingenuity helicopter’s first controlled flight to Mars: Monday, April 19. This would be the third time Ingenuity’s flight has been rescheduled to date, and with any luck, it could be the real deal.

Saturday, the space agency announced that Ingenuity, its tiny 4-pound (1.8 kg) helicopter, would attempt its maiden flight Monday around 3:30 a.m.ET. The new date follows two attempts that were delayed due to pre-flight checks and a sequence of commands issue that arose during a high speed spin test of its rotors on April 9. That day, the test ended prematurely due to the “watchdog” timer expiring as he tried to switch the flight computer from pre-flight mode to flight mode, the said. NASA.

Ingenuity’s watchdog timer monitors the helicopter’s command sequence and alerts the system to any potential problem. If something goes wrong, the watchdog timer “helps the system stay safe” by not proceeding. Completing the spin test is an important milestone on Ingenuity’s flight path.

The Ingenuity flight team had been work on a solution to this problem in recent days. One was to add a few controls to the helicopter’s flight sequence, while the other was to modify and relocate the helicopter. flight control software. Friday, ingenuity successfully completed the full-speed spin test he was unable to complete on April 9.

To perform the spin test, the team used the flight sequence solution. The approach has been extensively tested on both Earth and Mars, the flight team said in a status update Friday, and was done without compromising the security of Ingenuity, which cost $ 80 million and took years to develop. However, the team said it was still undecided on what to do with Ingenuity’s first flight.

“Software exchange is a simple solution to a known problem,” the team wrote. “But, it will take a little longer to run and it’s a software modification that has been stable and unchanged for almost two years. The validation and testing took several days, and uploading and uploading these new files will take several more. ”

In the status update, the team said it will hold a meeting on Friday to analyze the two solutions and determine which one it will would adopt for Ingenuity’s first flight. The team did not guarantee on Friday that it would agree to a new flight date, but judging by NASA’s announcement, it most likely did.

The announcement did not reveal what solution the team ultimately adopted, although we will surely find out in the next few days.

If ingenuity is successful, this will be the first time that a space agency has performed a controlled motorized flight on another planet. The small helicopter will attempt to perform up to five test flights in a window of 30 Martian soils, or 31 Earth days. Using his down-facing camera, he’ll take photos during his test flight, with the team supposed to receive grainy black-and-white images in the first and higher-resolution images later.

During previous press conference During Ingenuity’s flight, NASA officials said the Perseverance rover, which carried Ingenuity to Mars on its belly, will also attempt to capture footage from its friend’s helicopter friend’s first flight.

NASA will begin hosting a live broadcast at 6:15 a.m. (ET) Monday, when the team will receive data from Ingenuity and find out if their first flight was successful. You can watch the live broadcast on Youtube below, as well as on NASA app, website, and Facebook page. Additionally, if the flight takes place, NASA will hold a post-flight briefing at 2 p.m. ET.

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