Mars helicopter fails to lift off on its fourth flight attempt

Space Science

In this illustration, NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter stands on the Red Planet’s surface as NASA’s Perseverance rover (partially visible on the left) rolls away.
Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

MYSTERY WIRE (AP) — Flight controllers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California will attempt another flight later today (April 30, 2021) after NASA’s Mars helicopter failed its fourth flight attempt.

After three previous successes the 4-pound (1.8-kilogram) helicopter named Ingenuity remained grounded for what was supposed to be its longest, fastest flight yet.

NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter made its third successful takeoff and landing on April 25.

The flight was partially captured on video by NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover.

The helicopter took off and flew out of the rover’s field of vision while completing a flight plan that spanning 164 feet (50 meters).

Ingenuity took flight for the first time at Mars on April 19 – becoming the first powered aircraft to soar on another planet – after controllers fixed a software error.

Managers said the solution would work 85 percent of the time.

After three successful flights, Thursday’s (April 29, 2021) attempt was a disappointment.

The helicopter team has until early next week to test Ingenuity in the Martian skies.

Two more flights are planned before NASA’s Perseverance rover shoves off on its primary mission: seeking signs of past life in the Martian rocks.

The rover will collect core samples and set them aside for pickup by a future robotic craft, for eventual return to Earth.

Perseverance and Ingenuity arrived at Mars on Feb. 18, landing in an ancient river delta.

The Mars 2020 Perseverance mission is part of NASA’s Moon to Mars exploration approach, which includes Artemis missions to the moon.

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