Mars    Helicopter

Status Updates

Work Progresses Toward Ingenuity’s First Flight on Mars
NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter
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
NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter
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?
NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter
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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It's Cold on Mars
NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter
NASA's Ingenuity helicopter can be seen here with all four of its legs deployed before dropping from the belly of the Perseverance rover on March 30, 2021, the 39th Martian day, or sol, of the mission. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech. Download image ›
Within a few days, Ingenuity will be on the surface of Mars. Until now it has been connected to the Perseverance rover, which allowed Ingenuity to charge its battery as well as use a thermostat-controlled heater powered by the rover. This heater keeps the interior at about 45 degrees F through the bitter cold of the Martian night, where temperatures can drop to as low as -130F. That comfortably protects key components such as the battery and some of the sensitive electronics from harm at very cold temperatures.
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How is the Weather on Mars?
NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter
An artist's concept of NASA's Ingenuity Mars Helicopter flying through the Red Planet's skies. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech. Download image ›
Much like flying an aircraft on Earth, the weather on Mars is also important for flying Ingenuity. The obvious weather we are interested in could be called Atmospheric Weather, but there is also a different kind of weather we care about – Space Weather, which has to do with the fact that Ingenuity is as much a spacecraft as an aircraft.
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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+

  • Bob Balaram
    Chief Engineer for the Mars Helicopter Project, NASA/JPL