The fourth flight of Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s history-making Ingenuity helicopter on Mars “didn’t get off the ground” Thursday, and mission managers were assessing data from the rotorcraft to determine the next steps.
No information was immediately released about what prevented the flight from occurring.
According to a JPL Twitter post: “Aim high, and fly, fly again. The #MarsHelicopter’s ambitious fourth flight didn’t get off the ground, but the team is assessing the data and will aim to try again soon. We’ll keep you posted.”
Emboldened by the helicopter’s first three successful flights, mission managers were planning to push the craft’s “performance envelope” during Thursday’s flight.
The flight from Wright Brothers Field — the name given to the helicopter’s base on Mars — was scheduled to occur at 7:12 a.m. California time. Data from the flight wasn’t expected back at JPL until roughly three hours later, at 10:21 a.m. It was just before noon that JPL announced the flight had not occurred.
The fourth flight was expected to see Ingenuity climb to a height of 16 feet, then fly south — “flying over rocks, sand ripples, and small impact craters” — for 276 feet. The helicopter’s downward-facing camera was then expected to begin snapping photos every four feet, until it reached a distance of 436 feet from its starting point. Ingenuity was then programmed to stop, hover and return to Wright Brothers Field.
“To achieve the distance necessary for this scouting flight, we’re going to break our own Mars records set during flight three,” Johnny Lam, Ingenuity’s backup pilot at JPL, said prior to the attempt. “We’re upping the time airborne from 80 seconds to 117, increasing our max airspeed from 2 meters per second to 3.5, and more than doubling our total range.”
NASA and JPL officials are expected to hold a media briefing Friday to discuss future plans for Ingenuity.