NASA Finds Solution for Ingenuity’s Technical Difficulties, but Delays Mars Flight Again

NASA Finds Solution for Ingenuity’s Technical Difficulties, but Delays Mars Flight Again
Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU

We regret to inform you that the first test flight for NASA’s Ingenuity Helicopter has been delayed. Again.

Look, we get it, space is tricky. But we just want to see a little helicopter achieve its dreams on a planet 282 million km away, is that too much to ask?

Actually yes. This mission has been years in the making so even the smallest of problems has to be ironed out. There’s not exactly a backup helicopter waiting to take Ingenuity’s place, so NASA is right to take extra caution. But have no fear, Ingenuity will fly… eventually.

Why is Ingenuity delayed?

Ingenuity’s first flight was set to take place on April 12. A few days prior to this NASA postponed the flight, saying Ingenuity was experiencing some technical difficulties.

The report stated Ingenuity was receiving a watchdog timer expiration as it tested its transition between pre-flight and flight modes. NASA said this wasn’t entirely out of the ordinary and engineers were quickly working on a fix

Ingenuity’s flight was then pushed back to April 14, at the earliest, but it seems it won’t make that date either.

In a new statement, NASA delivered some hopeful news:

“The Ingenuity team has identified a software solution for the command sequence issue identified on Sol 49 (April 9)”

NASA said its team had concluded that the best path forward is for a modification and a reinstallation of Ingenuity’s flight control software.

“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.”

It seems even helicopters on Mars need a software update now and then.

NASA said the process is rather straightforward and will involve careful steps to move the new software through the rover to the base station and then on to Ingenuity.

Given the time it will take to process and uplink this update, Ingenuity’s flight date has to be pushed yet again.

When will the helicopter fly?

Ingenuity now needs to hit a number of milestones before it can be deemed safe to fly. This includes developing and validating new software, loading it onto flight controllers and booting Ingenuity using the new software.

NASA said that right now a target flight date is fluid but it will look at rescheduling a date for next week.

When it does fly the Ingenuity helicopter will make history as the first controlled powered flight on another planet. You’ll be able to catch all the action from the flight over on NASA’s YouTube channel.