NASA delays Ingenuity helicopter’s historic first flight on Mars

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


Looks like we’ll have to wait a bit longer to see a helicopter flying around on Mars. NASA has 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, the space agency said Saturday. The flight, originally set for Sunday, will now 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 Friday’s rotor test, “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 previously said Ingenuity’s flight date might shift as engineers make adjustments and go through preflight checks. 

When 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.

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