[Update Below] On April 10th, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory shared in a Status Update that the first flight of Mars Helicopter Ingenuity has been rescheduled to No Earlier Than April 14th. Ingenuity underwent a low-speed spin test of its rotor yesterday, reaching 50rpm. When the helicopter moved to begin the full-speed spin test of its rotors the watchdog timer expired.
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory reports that the helicopter is currently “safe and healthy and communicated its full telemetry set to Earth.” These “watchdog timers” are commonly used in computers here on earth, but are essential for remote operations where direct human intervention is impossible.
In general, when a computer is working properly a watchdog timer would be regularly reset. If a problem occurs where the timer is not reset, the system will automatically correct the problem. This can be simply thought of as “turning the computer off and back on again” automatically if any error occurs. These systems are in place to prevent permanent damage to the Helicopter.
Currently, the team that works on the Mars Helicopter is reviewing all the data to determine what caused the issue with the flight, and what needs to be done to resolve it. Once the problem has been addressed, a new full-speed test will be scheduled before the first flight.
It is important to remember the experimental nature of these test programs. While Ingenuity will prove systems to improve future scientific exploration, this will be the first controlled and powered flight on Mars. As they address yesterday at the pre-flight briefing; the Wright brothers did not achieve flight on their first attempt, but they knew it would be possible and persevered. Every bit of information gathered will help improve future efforts as we explore space.
[Update] Ingenuity Requires Software Update
On April 12th, NASA JPL announced that Ingenuity needs a software update in order to move forward with flight. A new flight date will be announced next week. In the meantime, the Ingenuity team will be diagnosing the specific problems, developing the software fix, validating the software, and then deploying the software to Ingenuity.
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