NASA has chosen to reschedule the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter’s first experimental flight to no earlier than April 14. Ingenuity will now remain planted firmly on the Red Planet’s surface until at least Wednesday (April 14), according to a statement from the agency.
The delay comes in response to an anomaly during a test that was meant to see the helicopters blades reach flight-like speeds of 2,400 revolutions per minute. This occurred as it was trying to transition the flight computer from ‘Pre-Flight’ to ‘Flight’ mode. The helicopter is safe and healthy and communicated its full telemetry set to Earth. 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 and worked as planned. The helicopter team is reviewing telemetry to diagnose and understand the issue. Following that, they will reschedule the full-speed test. There are significant challenges to flying on Mars, however, and Ingenuity has to contend with a planet that particularly enjoys killing spacecraft.
Ingenuity arrived on the surface of Mars on Feb. 18, ferried to the Red Planet as a technology demonstration project by NASA’s car-sized Perseverance rover. After the rover got situated at its landing site in Jezero Crater, it set about looking for an airfield for the helicopter’s historic flight. After arriving there, the rover set about the careful process of unfolding and deploying the 4-lb. (1.8 kilograms) helicopter.