NASA rescheduled Ingenuity's first flight to Mars for Monday

NASA rescheduled Ingenuity's first flight to Mars for Monday

NASA has revealed the new date for Ingenuity's first controlled flight to Mars: Monday, April 19. This would be the third time that Ingenuity's flight has been rescheduled to date and, with a little luck, it could be the right time. On Saturday, the space agency announced that Ingenuity, the tiny two-pound helicopter, will attempt its first flight on Monday at around 3:30 am ET. The new date follows two delayed attempts due to preliminary checks and a command sequence problem, which emerged during a high-speed rotation test conducted on April 9.

Ingenuity photographed by Perseverance on April 4.

Image: NASA / JPL-Caltech That day, the test ended early due to the watchdog timer expiring as it was trying to switch the flight computer from pre-flight to flight mode, NASA explained. Ingenuity's watchdog timer oversees the helicopter's command sequence and alerts the system in case of potential problems. If there is a problem, the watchdog timer "helps the system stay safe" by not proceeding. Completing the spin test is a fundamental action for Ingenuity's flight path.

In the last few days the Ingenuity flight team had been working on a solution to this problem. One involved adding some commands to the helicopter's flight sequence, while the other involved changing and reinstalling the flight control software. Ingenuity successfully ran the spin test at full speed on Friday that it was unable to complete on April 9th. The approach has been extensively tested on both Earth and Mars, the flight team said in a status update on Friday, and was carried out without jeopardizing the safety of Ingenuity, which cost $ 80 million and required years to develop. However, the team said they are still undecided on which solution to adopt for Ingenuity's first flight.

Ingenuity's first low-resolution image "Software swapping 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 change that's been stable and unchanged for nearly two years. Validation and testing took several days and the transfer and upload of these new files will take many more ”. In the status update, the team said they would have a meeting on Friday to analyze both solutions and determine which one they would adopt for Ingenuity's first flight. The team on Friday did not guarantee that it would agree on a new flight date, but judging by the NASA announcement, it most likely did. The announcement did not reveal what solution the team had ultimately adopted, although we will certainly find out in the next few days.

If Ingenuity is successful, it will be the first time a space agency has operated motor-controlled flights over another planet. The tiny aircraft will attempt up to five test flights within a window of thirty Martian sols, or thirty-one Earth days. Using its downward facing camera, it will take photos during the test flight, with the team expected to receive grainy black and white images at first and higher resolution images later.

During a previous one. Ingenuity flight press conference, NASA officials said the Perseverance rover (click here to buy the Mars mission mug), which transported Ingenuity to Mars, will also attempt to capture images of the first flight. NASA will begin a live stream at 6:15 am ET on Monday, when the team will receive data from Ingenuity and find out if its first flight was successful.

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