[Update: New flight time announced] NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter considered a full success, no fourth flight to celebrate with though

NASA’s Ingenuity Mars helicopter has wowed us from Earth with its first flights over the Red Planet. After just 3 flights the tech demo has completed all of its test objectives and will now push the envelope for what it can do.

The team at JPL announced that the helicopter met or surpassed every objective that was laid out for it to do since landing on Mars. The short lifespan of the helicopter only called for 5 possible flights and after 3, it has knocked its flights out of the park. With both great photos and video captured by itself and the Perseverance rover that is has been viewing the flights not too far away.

“From millions of miles away, Ingenuity checked all the technical boxes we had at NASA about the possibility of powered, controlled flight at the Red Planet. Future Mars exploration missions can now confidently consider the added capability an aerial exploration may bring to a science mission.”

Lori Glaze, Director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division

The fourth flight will push what they believe Ingenuity can do. It was supposed to conduct this groundbreaking flight this morning and teams would receive data this afternoon but something didn’t go right. The helicopter looks to be fine, it didn’t actually fly at all, and teams at JPL will have to assess what caused the flight not to happen.

We are getting close to the end of the operational lifespan of Ingenuity, it was not built to last very long on the Martian soil with the dust and extreme heat, and cold temperatures. Hopefully, this issue can be solved quickly and the helicopter can continue flying as soon as possible before Perseverance needs to go and get some of its own mission objectives done.

New date for fourth flight

JPL announced in a blog that the helicopter did not transition to flight mode prior to the scheduled flight. This is connected to the watchdog timer issue that appeared earlier in the month and is projected that each flight attempt will have a 15% chance of triggering the watchdog timer.

The new flight attempt date will be Friday morning at 10:46 AM EDT and will attempt faster speeds, further distances, and a overall longer flight time. A briefing about how JPL will push Ingenuity will take place tomorrow as well at 11:30 AM EDT but flight data isn’t expected to be returned till tomorrow afternoon.

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