After discovering a flaw during an ultimate pre-flight evaluation, NASA declared on April 10 that the Ingenuity helicopter’s maiden flight try on Mars will be postponed for at a minimum of three days. The order series for an April 9 evaluation of the vehicle’s rotors, where they will spin up to maximum tilt, finished prematurely when a “watchdog” timer elapsed, NASA stated in a brief statement. The timer keeps track of the command series and stops the test if anything goes wrong.
The test was abandoned because the flight device on the 1.8-kg helicopter was attempting to switch from “pre-flight” to “flight” mode. NASA did not comment on the exact problem that caused the test to be canceled. When mission engineers have evaluated the vehicle’s telemetry, the evaluation will be rescheduled. That was the last test until Ingenuity’s first takeoff, which was set for April 11 evening. The flight try will now actually occur no sooner than April 14, according to NASA.
At an April 9 meeting, Tim Canham, Ingenuity activities lead at the NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, stated, “It’s going to be a really cautious trip.” The helicopter will rise to a height of three meters and float, turning in the path of the Perseverance rover, which will be watching the trip from a secure distance of 65 meters away. After that, around 40 seconds after departure, the helicopter would descent and land. “To actually nail the very first flight, we’re going to take a rather cautious flight,” MiMi Aung, who serves as the project manager for the Ingenuity at JPL, stated. “After that, we’ll start taking bigger and bigger risks. We’re trying to move much further and further.”
Over the course of 30 days, the mission would fly five times. Engineers can study telemetry from Ingenuity and also photographs from both the helicopter as well as Perseverance during each trip. Given the amount of data, specifically snippets of video, which project officials hope can display Ingenuity in flight, this phase will take a few days. Elsa Jensen, the uplink operations leader for Perseverance’s Mastcam-Z camera that will watch the mission, said, “We’re only getting all the downlink that we can be able to get from all orbiters, so that we can be able to get back as much as possible.”
If the very first flight is positive, Aung expects the second flight to take place in four days. For future flights, the cadence would be reduced to three days. Later flights would involve traveling up to five meters of height and flying 50 meters downrange and also back. “We’ll have a good time until we get to the fourth as well as fifth flights,” she added. “We just want to press our car to its limits,” says the driver. You don’t get to try a rotorcraft as well as do a test on Mars every day. We’re going to be really adventurous after the third flight.”