NASA will fly an innovation helicopter on Mars tomorrow morning

A NASA helicopter prowess performs a motion test on Mars

If it is difficult to do Fly a drone on Earth, imagine yourself 281 million kilometers away to do so on another planet. A week ago, NASA generated huge global expectations for its implementation The first powered and controlled flight of an aircraft in another world, When helicopter cleverness He had to climb up to 3 meters for 40 seconds.

It was set to happen on Monday, April 11, during the early hours of Earth’s life, but problems with its propeller movement changed the plans of expert engineers, who had to reschedule the flight on April 14. However, again more problems arose and the helicopter had to postpone its completion again.

“The Ingenuity team identified a software solution to a scripting problem that occurred on April 9th ​​during a high-speed spin test of rotors,” said a NASA statement.

Specifically, during the high-speed rotor rotor test, Earlier, the sequence of commands controlling the test expired due to the expiration of the “monitor” timer. This happened when trying to change the flight computer from “pre-flight” to “in-flight” mode. The monitoring timer monitors the script and alerts the system of any potential problems. It also helps the system keep it safe by shutting down if something goes wrong with what was planned. As reported by NASA, The helicopter is safe and sound, and the plane sent its full measurements to the ground without any problems.

During the week, the team of specialists studied and tested several potential solutions to this problem, and concluded this A simple modification and reinstallation of the Ingenuity Flight Control software was the most powerful way forward for a helicopter to be able to fly autonomously. On Mars.

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This software update changed the process by which the two flight controllers start up, Allowing hardware and software to safely access flight status. Modifications to the flight software are independently reviewed and validated on the test benches for Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) NASA, California. Ingenuity’s flight control software update followed established validation processes with careful and thoughtful steps of moving the new software by rover to the base station and then to the helicopter.

An innovative NASA helicopter prepares to fly on Monday (NASA)
An innovative NASA helicopter prepares to fly on Monday (NASA)

So it was yesterday that NASA finally managed The creativity vanes start at full speed. To do this, the instruction sequence implemented by Ingenuity was modified to put its blades in spin and go from pre-flight to flight mode. It did so without taking off, because its propellers were angled that did not generate lift.

In any case, NASA engineers still don’t provide much accurate information about the origin of the problem. They only reported that it was a matter of synchronization between the program that monitors the operation of the helicopter and the on-board computers. over there Question and answer session on Twitter With Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA’s Deputy Director for Scientific Expeditions, and Mimi Ong, Project Creativity Director who hasn’t shed much light on the issue.

New flight date


NASA decided that Ingenuity’s first helicopter flight from Mars will be tomorrow, Monday, April 19 After the small drone passed a critical test this weekend. The helicopter aims to take off at 04:30 Argentine time (07:30 GMT). NASA said yesterday.

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NASA said in a statement that the data from that first flight will take several hours to reach Earth See this event live And on NASA TV, starting at 07:15 ARG (10.15 GMT). NASA will also run a post-flight update at 3:00 PM ART (6:00 PM GMT).

NASA has determined that a technology demonstration like this is not expected to face challenges that must be worked on in real time.. “The high risk and reward approach we took for our first powered and controlled flight to another planet allowed us to scale performance in ways that we couldn’t do on a mission designed to last for years like perseverance,” he says.

The Mars Innovation helicopter blades are made from a lightweight carbon fiber foam core to provide lift in the thin atmosphere of Mars (NASA)
The Mars Innovation helicopter blades are made from a lightweight carbon fiber foam core to provide lift in the thin atmosphere of Mars (NASA)

While the creativity team does its job, Perseverance will continue to do the science through its toolkit and prepare for a demonstration test of MOXIE oxygen production technology.

“I’m preparing to do some local science on the lookout on #MarsHelicopter, while we wait for the first flight. I’ve been photographing some local rocks,” tweeted the Perseverance rover on Wednesday. The latest photos can be viewed On this NASA website, Which actually shows a few images of nearby rocks along with far-reaching views from an Ingenuity helicopter.

Each time it is closer to the historical event that will distinguish The first flight of a terrestrial device on another planet.


Infographics: Marcelo Regalado

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