NASA delays historic first flight of Ingenuity helicopter to Mars

An artist concept of NASA's Ingenuity Mars helicopter taking off.

An artist concept of NASA’s Ingenuity Mars helicopter taking off.

NASA / JPL-Caltech

It looks like we will have to wait a little longer to see a helicopter flying on Mars. NASA has decided to roll back the Ingenuity Mars helicopterThe first experimental flight due to a safety alert during a high-speed spin test of Ingenuity’s rotors, the space agency said Saturday. The flight, originally scheduled for Sunday, will now take place “no earlier than April 14,” a Wednesday, the space agency said in a statement. But the helicopter is “safe and healthy,” NASA said.

During Friday’s rotor test, “the script that controlled the test ended early due to the expiration of a ‘watchdog’ timer,” NASA said in a status update. “This happened when I was trying to transition the flight computer from ‘Preflight’ mode to ‘Flight’ mode.”

The agency added that the watchdog timer “monitors the script and alerts the system of any potential problems. It helps the system stay safe by not continuing if a problem is observed.”

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The space agency said the Ingenuity team is diagnosing the problem and will reschedule the rotor test based on its findings. NASA had previously said that Ingenuity’s flight date could change as engineers make adjustments and go through pre-flight checks.

When Ingenuity finally ends up flying, it will be the first time humans have achieved controlled, powered flight on another planet. The experimental helicopter, taken to mars for NASA’s Perseverance rover, it could open a new way to explore other worlds.

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