NASA Ingenuity helicopter’s first flight delayed by space agency

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


This story is part of Welcome to Mars, our series exploring the red planet.

Looks like we’ll have to wait a bit to see a helicopter flying around on Mars. NASA said Saturday that it’s decided to push back the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter‘s first experimental flight due to a safety alert during a high-speed spin test of Ingenuity’s rotors. Originally set for Sunday, the flight now will happen “no earlier than April 14,” a Wednesday, the space agency said in a statement. But the copter is “safe and healthy,” NASA said.

During the rotor test on Friday, “the command sequence controlling the test ended early due to a ‘watchdog’ timer expiration,” NASA said in a status update. “This occurred as it was trying to transition the flight computer from ‘Pre-Flight’ to ‘Flight’ mode.”

The agency added that 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.”

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The space agency said the Ingenuity team is diagnosing the issue and will reschedule the rotor test based on its findings. NASA had said previously that Ingenuity’s flight date might shift as engineers make adjustments and go through preflight checks. 

If Ingenuity eventually winds up flying, it’ll be the first time humans have achieved powered, controlled flight on another planet. The experimental copter, carried to Mars by NASA’s Perseverance rover, could open up a whole new way to explore other worlds.

Read more: NASA’s Mars helicopter Ingenuity: What you need to know before its first flight

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