People who are anticipating the launch of NASA's Mars helicopter and seeing it in action may have to wait a bit longer. The space agency has delayed the first flight of Ingenuity to no earlier than Apr. 14.
This is after the test flight was done on Apr. 9 went awry. According to NBC, the high-speed spin test finished prematurely after a watchdog timer, which is meant to catch technical issues, expired while transitioning the helicopter to its flight mode.
NASA's Mars helicopter delay
NASA stressed that Ingenuity was safe and healthy and that it was reviewing telemetry from the vehicle to both understand what happened and determine when the first flight might occur, according to CGTN.
The initial flight was originally slated for late on Apr. 11. If the plan moves forward, the flight will be a 30-second hover at 10 feet. NASA plans four more flights in the pipeline, and it is scheduled for the next 30 days.
This clearly is not what NASA wanted. The mission team has every incentive to be cautious, however. If successful, NASA's Ingenuity helicopter will be the first vehicle to fly on the Martian surface.
Mars' helicopter Ingenuity
NASA's wheeled rovers revealed an incredible amount about the red planet. From learning about Mars' wet history and discovering its soil's chemistry and the puzzling presence of methane in its atmosphere, the rovers have been indispensable in painting a picture of one of Earth's closest neighbors.
However, rovers may not be enough in studying Mars. That is when NASA scientists thought about strapping a set of wings to a robot and give them a chance to have a close-up view of the planet without any risk of collision or fall.
That is where NASA's Mars helicopter Ingenuity comes in. It is a tiny, lightweight rotorcraft. If it flies, it will be the first time that humans have achieved powered, controlled flight on another planet, according to CNET.
The one that got the limelight for the Mars mission is the Perseverance rover. Ingenuity is a ride-along mission and a tech demonstration. It is not on Mars to perform any science at all, and it is created to show that powered flight is possible in space.
Ingenuity was tucked away in the Perseverance rover's belly during its long sojourn from Earth to Mars, which kicked off in July.
The rover landed on Mars in February, and Ingenuity was safe and sound from the harsh, cold Martian surface until Apr. 4, when Perseverance carefully deposited the chopper onto the soil.
While onboard Perseverance, Ingenuity was protected and powered by the rover's suite of instruments. But after it was dropped off and Perseverance rolled away, Ingenuity was cold and alone.
Mars temperature plummets well below freezing at night, to around minus 130 degrees Fahrenheit.
Fortunately, Ingenuity showed it can cope with the cold when it survived its first night separated from its rover pal.
The connection with Perseverance has not ended, though. When Ingenuity takes its first flight next week, it will be Perseverance that relays those messages back to Earth.
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Written by Sieeka Khan