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posted by martyb on Sunday April 11 2021, @10:50PM   Printer-friendly
from the good-things-come-to-those-who-wait dept.

Straight from NASA we have word of a delay in the first flight of Ingenuity on Mars.

Mars Helicopter Flight Delayed To No Earlier Than April 14 - Nasa Mars:

Based on data from the Ingenuity Mars helicopter that arrived late Friday night, NASA has chosen to reschedule the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter's first experimental flight to no earlier than April 14.

During a high-speed spin test of the rotors on Friday, the command sequence controlling the test ended early due to a "watchdog" timer expiration. This occurred as it was trying to transition the flight computer from 'Pre-Flight' to 'Flight' mode. The helicopter is safe and healthy and communicated its full telemetry set to Earth.

The watchdog timer oversees the command sequence and alerts the system to any potential issues. It helps the system stay safe by not proceeding if an issue is observed and worked as planned.

The helicopter team is reviewing telemetry to diagnose and understand the issue. Following that, they will reschedule the full-speed test.

NASA has a web site devoted to Ingenuity.

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  • (Score: 2) by Socrastotle on Monday April 12 2021, @04:41AM (4 children)

    by Socrastotle (13446) on Monday April 12 2021, @04:41AM (#1136255) Journal

    A lot of the failures NASA has had over the past ~3 decades have been incredibly simple things.

    The most ridiculous was the Mars Climate Orbiter []. This was a $300 million project sent to Mars. NASA software was using metrics units. Lockheed Martin software was using imperial units. Apparently nobody bothered to check at any point to ensure that the two software systems would create reasonable results. So when it got to Mars and the two systems ended up communicating, the results were nonsensical, and it crashed.

    And things have only gotten worse at NASA, fast, over the past couple of decades. The James Webb space telescope is going to be a state of art telescope that will replace Hubble and provide an unprecedented look into the cosmos. The launch date is set for 2007. Yeah... Development on it began in 1996 with an estimated cost of $500 million. 25 years and $10 billion dollars later, it's still unfinished and on the ground.

    Keep in mind that in the 60s we went from literally zero knowledge of space flight, to putting a man on the Moon, in ~7 years. And the entire budget we spent on the Apollo program worked out to about $12 billion a year, inflation adjusted. That's half of NASA's modern budget. It's so incredibly frustrating. We should long since be a space faring civilization, and I do have some hope if not optimism that SpaceX may still take us where we need to go. But at this rate - if SpaceX does not succeed, it looks like the future of space, which in my opinion is the future of humanity, could very well end up belonging to China.

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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 12 2021, @02:41PM (2 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 12 2021, @02:41PM (#1136406)

    Its funny what changing the "central mission" of a program every 4-8 years will do to a place...

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 12 2021, @05:46PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 12 2021, @05:46PM (#1136549)

      It's also funny what happens when most of your budget is earmarked by Congress for 'preferred suppliers' whose only value is in their regular campaign contributions.

    • (Score: 2) by Socrastotle on Monday April 12 2021, @05:48PM

      by Socrastotle (13446) on Monday April 12 2021, @05:48PM (#1136552) Journal

      This is the reason I mention the Apollo program. It went from nothing to man on the moon in 7 years, with half the yearly budget (inflation adjusted) of modern NASA. There's something much more systemic going on at NASA.

      That's not to say I don't agree that the constant cancel/rebrand/restart every ~8 years is a problem. It's likely working in tandem, but I do believe that if we had the talent at NASA they had in the 60s - they could be achieving some rather remarkable things, instead of spending their efforts trying to hype the launch of a toy drone.

  • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 12 2021, @05:19PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 12 2021, @05:19PM (#1136527)

    People mistakenly cite the MCO failure as some statement about the superiority of metric over imperial, but you very correctly point out that it had nothing to do with units and everything to do with a systems engineering failure. Somewhere there was a Systems Requirement Document and interface documents (software and hardware). And systems integration and test (I&T) would have been set up to test every interface, both software and hardware. Whatever that reason was that let this slip through, there should have been some SE heads that rolled.

    I feel your general space/NASA frustration because the Apollo program was still running when I was a kid, but you also need to put a good chunk of the blame on all us citizens, not just NASA. Apollo was exciting, captivating, it was a race! Everyone was excited because they like races, especially for something really amazing that has never been done before. But once it was done? Meh, "been there, done that." They weren't even televising the launch of Apollo 13 and the public moved on until the oxygen tank blew, then it became a story! Human intrigue, danger, will they make it or will they not?? All exciting stuff, but very tangential to anything to do with space. That of course ended with a happy ending and then public stopped caring. Apollo-Soyuz was kind of neat, but they killed it after 17 because nobody cared (they would have killed it after 16, but 17 was all ready to go and most of the costs sunk).

    If you want broad public support, you'll need to give the populace a reason to care. Bouncing around collecting rocks isn't that sexy. There will be a lot of interest when the first attempts to Mars are made, but it will turn out the same way. I'm not quite sure what it will be like when people go back to the Moon. First one will be milked for all it is worth (live interviews on the morning news shows, etc.), but I don't see public interest in it for the long haul because frankly, real life isn't as sexy as what you can do on a green screen.