A little helicopter on Mars is likely causing big headaches for the folks at NASA.
The helicopter, or drone if you prefer, is Ingenuity and for the last week NASA has been trying to get it off of the Martian soil. A watchdog timer brought testing to an abrupt end last week and now liftoff is delayed yet again.
Today was supposed to be the day Ingenuity finally took to Martian skies but the Ingenuity team has been trying to find a solution to the command sequence issue it identified last week.
“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,” NASA wrote in an update.
Let’s pause for a moment and appreciate that NASA and the Ingenuity team is about to do a remote software installation on a helicopter that weighs less than 2kg, 282 million kilometres away.
As you might imagine, this update is doing to take some time and as such, a hard liftoff date for Ingenuity cannot be set just yet.
“The process of updating Ingenuity’s flight control software will follow established processes for validation with careful and deliberate steps to move the new software through the rover to the base station and then to the helicopter,” explained NASA.
NASA will continue to diagnose the problem and develop potential solutions but it is developing and validating a software update as we speak. Once the update is ready it will be loaded onto the flight controllers and Ingenuity will then be booted up with the new flight software installed.
Aside from the software issue, NASA says Ingenuity is healthy and that its critical functions including power, communications and thermal control are all working as expected.
A new date for Ingenuity’s first flight on Mars should be relayed next week.
[Image credit – NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU]