NASA’s Solar Powered Space Ingenuity Helicopter’s Historic Flight Has Been Postponed After High-Speed Spin Test

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NASA’s Ingenuity Mars helicopter’s historic flight was, unfortunately, postponed after doing some testing, according to Fox News.

The flight is now scheduled for the 14th of April at the soonest.

“During a high-speed spin test of the rotors on Friday, the command sequence controlling the test ended early due to a ‘watchdog’ timer expiration. This occurred as it was trying to transition the flight computer from ‘Pre-Flight’ to ‘Flight’ mode.”

“The helicopter is safe and healthy and communicated its full telemetry set to Earth.”

“The helicopter team is reviewing telemetry to diagnose and understand the issue. Following that, they will reschedule the full-speed test.”

“We will test, prove and learn regardless of what the outcome is in this first attempt.”

Tim Canham, Ingenuity operations lead stated, “We’re really excited. It could be an amazing day. We’re all nervous, but we have confidence that we put in the work and the time and we have the right people to do the job.”

From Fox News:

The watchdog timer oversees the command sequence and alerts to any potential problems. It also helps the system stay safe by not proceeding if an issue is observed.

In a pre-flight news conference on Friday, representatives from both JPL Ingenuity and Perseverance Mars rover teams vocalized their excitement for the historic event.

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Thomas Zurbuchen, an associate administrator for science at NASA Headquarters, said a selfie image taken of the rover and rotorcraft showed the team was “ready” and that the flight would “really change the trajectory of what’s possible” in space exploration.

Ingenuity Project Manager MiMi Aung gave an update on Ingenuity’s pre-flight progress, noting that the autonomous helicopter had been successfully recharging its solar-powered battery and communicating with Perseverance.

She said the team had fully confirmed it has enough energy and power to perform the flight test and that they had examined thermal models, turned on sensors and computers and finished testing rotor blade operation.

One final checkout test to spin Ingenuity’s rotors at full speed to the flight RPM (revolutions per minute) was scheduled for Friday and after that they would be “set to go.”

The whole flight will last for around 40 seconds. If all final checks and atmospheric conditions look good above the Jezero Crater flight zone, Ingenuity will lift off climbing at a rate of 3 feet per second, rotate, take images with a 13-megapixel camera and hover at 10 feet above the surface.

Success is not a certainty and Ingenuity Chamber Test Engineer Amelia Quon pointed out that the red planet’s extremely cold and thin atmosphere could present challenges for the endeavor.

“It’s about one percent of the density of Earth’s atmosphere at sea level. That’s the equivalent of about 100,000 feet of altitude on Earth or three times the height of Mt. Everest,” she explained. “We don’t generally fly things that high.”