Mars helicopter software fix planned

The long-awaited virgin flight of an experimental $ 80 million mini helicopter Carried to Mars by Perseverance Rover NASA announced on Monday while engineers were testing the software to resolve glitches that occurred on Friday during pre-flight testing.

If all goes well, the team hopes to determine a new flight date next week.

Engineers initially cleared the Ingenuity helicopter to launch on Sunday with a 30-second up-and-down flight to ensure that the 4-pound drone could actually take off, hover, and land autonomously into the ultra-thin atmosphere of Mars. I was expecting.

However, during Friday’s testing, the Ingenuity flight computer did not move from one mode to another as expected because the helicopter’s four-foot-long counter-rotating blade was in the process of spinning. Shut down the test with programmed onboard safety software.

Impressions of the Ingenuity Mars helicopter artist.  / Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech

The artist’s impression of the Ingenuity Mars helicopter. / Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech

JPL announced on Saturday that Ingenuity was undamaged and had downlinked the full set of telemetry according to the command. According to a short update to the status, up to five first test flights will be postponed to at least Wednesday, allowing engineers to review the data to determine what went wrong and what needs to be fixed. I will.

JPL updated on Monday Helicopter status page The flight was put on hold until the software update was completed.

“The Ingenuity team identified a software solution for a command sequence issue identified during a planned high-speed spin-up test of a helicopter rotor (April 9),” the status report said.

“This software update modifies the process by which the two flight controllers launch, allowing the hardware and software to safely transition to flight state. Changes to flight software have been reviewed and validated individually. “

Fixing the software is “easy”, but the update states that “the process of verifying and completing the uplink to Ingenuity takes time.”

If all goes well, engineers will set a new date for the virgin flight of the helicopter next week.

“We are confident in our team’s ability to overcome this challenge and prepare for Ingenuity’s first historic controlled powered flight on another planet,” the update said. Meanwhile, “Ingenuity remains healthy on the surface of Mars. Important functions such as power, communications, and thermal control are stable.”

The ingenuity folded behind the protective debris shield was bolted to the belly of Mars and carried. $ 2.4 Billion Perseverance Rover.. Seven months after its launch from Cape Canaveral on July 30, Perseverance will land on Mars’ craters on February 18 looking for signs of past microbial activity in ancient lake bottom sediments. Started an ambitious mission.

Ingenuity caught the vehicle as a technology demonstration experiment. It is not equipped with scientific equipment and is not part of Rover’s main mission. The drone was added just to test the feasibility of flying in the thin atmosphere of Mars.

If successful, future missions will be able to send more advanced helicopters to Mars, transporting scientific equipment to rover and ultimately areas that may be inaccessible to astronauts.

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