Agence France-PresseApril 30, 2021 10:28:38 AMT
NASA’s Mars Ingenuity helicopter lost its fourth scheduled flight on Thursday, the space agency accused of a software bug and promised to try again the next day. “The helicopter is safe and healthy,” the statement says, adding that the rotor plane has not entered “flight mode”. The team plans to try the flight once again on Friday at 8:16 p.m.
The software issue is believed to be the same that delayed Ingenuity’s first voyage, the first motor flight on another planet. Originally scheduled for April 11, the historic achievement occurred on April 19.
The reason was a malfunction related to the aircraft’s “watchdog timer” that warns ingenuity of possible problems and interrupts its process if it thinks it detects an error.
The engineers did the coding, which allowed ingenuity to overcome the problem and move into flight mode correctly – but there was an estimated 15 percent chance that it wouldn’t work for every airline.
“Today’s delay is in line with this expectation and will not prevent a future flight,” NASA said.
Since it reached Mars in February under Perseverance-Rover’s belly, the 1.8-pound helicopter has made three successful flights.
The last one, which took place on Sunday, saw it move faster and farther than ever before, at a top speed of 6.6 feet (two meters) per second. It traveled a distance of 50 meters.
The flights of ingenuity are challenging because of conditions that are vastly different from those on Earth – above all, a rare atmosphere with less than a percent of its own density, which means it has to rotate its rotors at 2,400 rpm.
The demonstration of ingenuity technology ends in early May so the Perseverance driver can return to his main mission: to look for signs of past microbial life on Mars.