It’s a sad day today at Mars as the little Ingenuity helicopter failed to take off for its fourth flight. I was looking forward to writing about its success again but nothing always goes as planned. Ingenuity hit a bit of a snag and it is currently unclear why it failed to take off when it had done so three times.
NASA JPL Twitter account tweeted about the third flight with a picture showing nothing but an empty area where the Ingenuity helicopter used to stand. The tweet opened with “Aim high, and fly, fly again”. It then delivered the bad news saying that “The Mars Helicopter’s ambitious fourth flight didn’t get off the ground, but the team is assessing the data and will aim to try again soon”.
You can read the original tweet below.
The plan was for Ingenuity to fly even higher in this test. As high as 16 feet and then fly horizontally for about 276 feet to pass over rocks and craters while snapping some pictures of its journey. However, it couldn’t. Maybe they pushed it too hard in the last test, I mean the little helicopter did break its own speed record in the last test.
Johnny Lam, a backup pilot for the Ingenuity Helicopter gave a statement last Wednesday saying that “To achieve the distance necessary for this scouting flight, we’re going to break our own Mars records set during flight three. We’re upping the time airborne from 80 seconds to 117, increasing our max airspeed from 2 meters per second to 3.5 (4.5 mph to 8), and more than doubling our total range”.
The team at NASA is currently working to figure out the cause and fix it as soon as possible. Many people are eager to see the helicopter fly again. According to chief engineer Bob Balaram, “We have been kicking around several options regarding what a flight five could look like. But ask me about what they entail after a successful flight four. The team remains committed to building our flight experience one step at a time”.
So who’s praying for Ingenuity tonight?