NASA has decided to delay the Ingenuity Mars helicopter’s first experimental flight due to a safety alert during a high-speed spin test of Ingenuity’s rotors. The helicopter „is safe and healthy” but The flight, originally set for Sunday, will now happen “no earlier than April 14.” 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 early end of the test happened when the helicopter was trying to shift the flight computer from preflight into flight mode. The space agency said the Ingenuity team is diagnosing the issue and will reschedule the rotor test based on its findings. Engineers make adjustments and go through the preflight checks to ensure everything is operating as expected.
Until now, engineers unlocked the helicopter’s blades and tested them at a low speed, just 50 revolutions per minute. When Ingenuity is able to fly on Mars for the first time, the 4-pound helicopter will fly for about 40 seconds total. It will rise up 10 feet (3 meters) in the air, hover, make a turn, take a photo, and touch back down on Mars. Radio signals take 15 minutes and 27 seconds to cross the current gap between Earth and Mars, which spans 173 million miles (278.4 million kilometers). Perseverance will be parked at an overlook 215 feet (65 meters) away from the helicopter so it can safely watch the flight and capture images and videos.