May 21, 2024
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NASA has recently announced that it has rescheduled the first flight of its Ingenuity Mars helicopter to April 19th at 3:30AM ET, after finding a workaround to a software problem that delayed the flight earlier this month.

The flight was previously scheduled to take place April 11 but last weekend NASA said data from a high-speed rotor test showed the test sequence ended early, as Ingenuity’s computer tried to switch from pre-flight to flight mode. And the launch was delayed  after Ingenuity experienced a minor software glitch. 

Engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory decided to modify and reinstall Ingenuity’s flight control software, a process that took several days.

On Friday, NASA tweeted that Ingenuity had completed a full-speed spin test and a decision about the next flight date was forthcoming. The little helicopter has been waiting on the surface of Mars’ Jezero Crater as NASA engineers tested and reinstalled the flight software.

While Ingenuity is not the main focus of Perseverance’s mission on Mars— which is to look for signs of life and take dirt samples— the little helicopter could provide a leap forward in human exploration of Mars and other celestial bodies. 

Once it does take off, Ingenuity will climb about 10 feet (3 meters), then hover in place for 30 seconds before turning in midair and descending back to the surface. The camera on its underside will take 30 photos per second of the ground. A larger camera will face the horizon and snap photos while in flight, and at the same time Perseverance’s cameras will take pictures of Ingenuity flying.

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