Mars Ingenuity helicopter chalks up record flight as NASA extends its mission - CBS News
May 01, 2021 1 min, 31 secs

NASA's Ingenuity helicopter, grounded Thursday by a pesky-but-understood software issue, successfully completed its fourth flight in the ultra-thin atmosphere of Mars Friday, kicking off a new phase of extended science operations for the $80 million drone.

"Ingenuity successfully completed its fourth flight today, and we couldn't be happier," project manager MiMi Aung said in an on-line status report.

"#MarsHelicopter completed its 4th flight, going farther & faster than ever before.

Success 👏#MarsHelicopter completed its 4th flight, going farther & faster than ever before.

At the same time, Perseverance will transition from supporting helicopter operations to completing preparations for its own science mission.

"After it arrives, we're going to work very closely with (the Perseverance team) to identify the new, operational products and scenarios that we want to test (going) forward.

Ingenuity captured the world's imagination with its first flight on April 19, about a month after arriving on Mars with the Perseverance rover.

"When Ingenuity's landing legs touched down after that third flight, we knew we had accumulated more than enough data to help engineers design future generations of Mars helicopters," Bob Balaram, Ingenuity chief engineer at JPL, said in an on-line status report.

The team originally planned to launch the helicopter on its fourth flight Thursday, but data beamed back to Earth showed Ingenuity's flight computer failed to transition to flight mode as expected.

At the time, engineers debated whether to erase Ingenuity's flight software and load a modified version from scratch or to simply uplink additional commands that would improve the odds of a successful transition to flight mode

Ingenuity then carried out three successful test flights in a row going into Thursday's planned flight when, again, it failed to switch into flight mode

Balaram said the team may reassess whether to replace Ingenuity's flight software with a modified version to avoid such problems down the road

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