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NASA’s Mars Helicopter ‘Ingenuity’ Fails to Take Off in Ambitious Fourth Flight Attempt

The Ingenuity mini-chopper on NASA’s Perseverance Mars probe has suffered a major problem in its attempt at a fourth flight on the Red Planet, the US space agency said Thursday.

The Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California tweeted on Thursday that the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter “didn’t get off the ground, but the team is assessing the data and will aim to try again soon.”

The day prior, the JPL said Ingenuity’s next flight would attempt to go further, faster, and longer, than before. “We’ll up the time airborne to 117 seconds, increase max airspeed to 3.5 m/sec (8 mph), & more than double the total range,” the mission center said.

Weighing just four pounds when here on Earth, the tiny Ingenuity chopper is the first human-made object to take off from another world. It arrived on Mars atop the Perseverance rover, which plunged onto Earth’s rusty neighbor in February. Ingenuity flew for the first time through the thin Martian atmosphere on April 19.

Perseverance isn’t the first rover to land on Mars, but for the first time, even its arrival wasn’t alone: just days earlier, separate probes from China and the United Arab Emirates also arrived in Martian orbit. The UAE’s Hope probe is only an orbiter, but China’s Tianwen-1 orbiter will soon disembark its own rover to the surface. While a specific time and landing site has not yet been determined, May or June are expected. Earlier this week, China’s National Space Administration revealed the rover’s name is Zhurong, after the Chinese god of fire.

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