NASA Mars helicopter ingenuity should have gotten a real workout this morning (April 29th) but things didn’t go as planned.
4 lbs. The 1.8kg helicopter was scheduled to take off from the bottom of Martian Crater Jezero around 10:12 a.m. ET (14:12 GMT) today, starting its fourth flight to the Red Planet. That did not happen.
“Aim high, fly, fly again. The fourth flight # MarsHelicopter hasn’t taken off the ground, but the team is evaluating the data and will try to try again soon. We’ll keep you posted, ”says NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, which leads Ingenuity’s technology demonstration mission. said via Twitter today…
Video: Zoom in on the first Ingenuity helicopter flight to Mars.
Ingenuity also had an issue prior to its first flight attempt that failed to enter flight mode as planned. In response, the helicopter crew changed the sequence of commands transmitted from Earth – a fix that allowed Ingenuity to fly to Mars for the first time on April 19.
According to team members Ingenuity, tests here on Earth have shown that the fix will be effective about 85% of the time. It is possible that the same problem came up today and the last attempt just ended up in a bad 15% slot. But we’ll have to wait while Ingenuity’s curators do the necessary analysis to find out more.
Ingenuity landed with NASA’s Perseverance rover on February 18 inside the 28-mile (45 kilometers) wide Jezero Lake, which once contained a large lake and river delta.
On April 3, ingenuity unleashed from the belly of Perseverance and preparations began for a mission to show that aerial exploration of Mars was possible.
To date, the helicopter has flown three flights, one on 19 April, 22 April and 25 April. These sorties became more and more ambitious, with a solar-powered helicopter flying 100 meters at a top speed of 4.5 mph (7.2 km / h). km / h) during an 80-second flight on April 25.
Connected: How NASA’s Martian Helicopter Ingenuity Could Fly the Red Planet
The fourth flight was designed to push those boundaries even further. Today’s plan called for the Ingenuity to travel about 872 feet (266 m) of land and reach a top speed of 8 mph (13 km / h) while remaining airborne for 117 seconds, NASA officials said.
The flight window of ingenuity is coming to an end. The campaign is limited to five flights within one month from the April 3 deployment date because Perseverance must start focusing on its own mission, which includes looking for signs of a long gone Mars life and collecting samples for future return to Earth.
(Perseverance documented and maintained Ingenuity’s work; for example, communication between a helicopter and a helicopter must be via a rover.)
It is unclear at this point if Ingenuity will be able to squeeze in five flights before its time runs out, but members of the helicopter crew have said they will do whatever they can to make it happen.
Mike Wall is the author of “There“(Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Carl Tate), a book on the quest for alien life. Follow it on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.