NASA delays first Mars helicopter flight

NASA

The first flight of Ingenuity, NASA’s Mars helicopter, was rescheduled to make time for troubleshooting.

The delay was announced on April 10, 2021, just a day before the planned takeoff. NASA now hopes to take the aircraft to the Martian skies no earlier than April 14. 

According to the agency, Ingenuity is safe and sound but had some problems during a high-speed spin test of its rotors. A “watchdog” timer, designed to alert the system if an issue is observed, expired ending the command sequence controlling the test. 

NASA will now review the helicopter telemetry data in search of an issue, and proceed with the flight program as soon as possible.

Ingenuity helicopter, a 1.8 kilogram (approximately 4 pounds) drone with two contra-rotating rotors, was carried to Mars with the Perseverance rover, which arrived to the Red Planet on February 18, 2021. 

The aircraft was detached from the rover on April 5 and deployed in preparation for what should become the first-ever takeoff of an aircraft from the Martian surface. 

While simple and unsophisticated in comparison with other probes and rovers sent to Mars, Ingenuity carries a set of cameras and other instruments in its boxy fuselage. Its main purpose, though, is to be a technology demonstrator for the flight in the Martian atmosphere, which – being over 100 times less dense than Earth’s – poses a challenge for heavier-than-air aircraft.

 

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