Mars    Helicopter

Status Updates

Why We Choose to Try Our First Helicopter Flight on Monday
Ingenuity helicopter on Mars surface
This image from NASA’s Perseverance rover shows the agency’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter right after it successfully completed a high-speed spin-up test. It was captured by the Mastcam-Z instrument on Perseverance on April 16, 2021 (the 55th sol, or Martian day, of the rover’s mission). The image has been slightly processed (stretched and cropped). Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech. Download image ›
At 12:31 a.m. PDT on Monday, April 19, 2021, the Ingenuity helicopter team is going to attempt the first ever powered, controlled flight on another planet. We are optimistic that the helicopter will be able to take off from the Martian surface at this time; however, this is a test and we are prepared that it may not occur. Let me explain.
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Working the Challenge: Two Paths to First Flight on Mars
Ingenuity helicopter on Mars surface
NASA's Mars Perseverance rover acquired this image of the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter using its Left Mastcam-Z camera, on Apr. 16, 2021 (Sol 55). Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU. Download image ›
Today, April 16, on the 154th anniversary of Wilbur Wright’s birth, the Ingenuity flight team received information that the helicopter was able to complete a rapid spin test. The completion of the full-speed spin is an important milestone on the path to flight as the team continues to work on the command sequence issue identified on Sol 49 (April 9). How did we get to this milestone? As with any engineering challenge, there are multiple approaches that are considered. In this case, the team has been working two potential solutions in parallel. The approach that led to today's successful spin test entailed adding a few commands to the flight sequence. This approach was tested extensively on both Earth and Mars, and was performed without jeopardizing the safety of the helicopter. A second approach requires minor modification and reinstallation of Ingenuity's flight control software. The software swap is a straightforward fix to a known issue. But, it will take a bit longer to perform and is a modification to software that has remained stable and unchanged for close to two years. Validation and testing have taken several days, and transfer and loading of these new files will take several more.
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Work Progresses Toward Ingenuity’s First Flight on Mars
Ingenuity helicopter on Mars surface
NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter unlocked its rotor blades, allowing them to spin freely, on April 7, 2021, the 47th Martian day, or sol, of the mission. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech. Download image ›
The Ingenuity team has identified a software solution for the command sequence issue identified on Sol 49 (April 9) during a planned high-speed spin-up test of the helicopter’s rotors. Over the weekend, the team considered and tested multiple potential solutions to this issue, concluding that minor modification and reinstallation of Ingenuity’s flight control software is the most robust path forward. This software update will modify the process by which the two flight controllers boot up, allowing the hardware and software to safely transition to the flight state. Modifications to the flight software are being independently reviewed and validated today and tomorrow in testbeds at JPL.
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Mars Helicopter Flight Delayed to No Earlier than April 14
Ingenuity helicopter on Mars surface
NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter unlocked its rotor blades, allowing them to spin freely, on April 7, 2021, the 47th Martian day, or sol, of the mission. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU. Download image ›
Based on data from the Ingenuity Mars helicopter that arrived late Friday night, NASA has chosen to reschedule the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter’s first experimental flight to no earlier than April 14. 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.
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When Should Ingenuity Fly?
Ingenuity helicopter on Mars surface
NASA's Ingenuity Mars helicopter is seen here in a close-up taken by Mastcam-Z, a pair of zoomable cameras aboard the Perseverance rover. This image was taken on April 5, the 45th Martian day, or sol, of the mission.' Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU. Download image ›
While the Ingenuity team has been focusing on getting ready for its first flight on Mars, the team has also been busy selecting a time for that flight. A number of factors go into this important decision. First, Ingenuity cannot fly at night. It depends on its camera to observe the ground while navigating, and that wouldn't be possible at night. If it weren't for that, nighttime would be a good time for a helicopter to fly on Mars. The air density would be higher, which would make flying easier.
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About This Blog

These blog updates are provided by the Mars Helicopter team. The Mars Helicopter is a technology demonstration to test the first powered flight on Mars.

Dates of planned test activities are subject to change due to a variety of factors related to the Martian environment, communication relays, helicopter and/or rover status.

Contributors+

  • MiMi Aung
    Ingenuity Mars Helicopter Project Manager, NASA/JPL
  • Bob Balaram
    Chief Engineer for the Mars Helicopter Project, NASA/JPL