This week on Mars

NASA announced yesterday that the first flight of its Ingenuity Mars helicopter will take place no earlier than 14 April.

Just a day earlier, the agency had announced that the 1.8kg helicopter would make humanity’s first attempt at powered, controlled flight of an aircraft on another planet on Sunday US time.

NASA said the altered decision was “based on data from the Ingenuity Mars helicopter that arrived late Friday night”.

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NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover acquired this close-up of Ingenuity on 7 April 2021 using its Left Mastcam-Z camera. Mastcam-Z is a pair of cameras located high on the rover’s mast. Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / ASU

“During a high-speed spin test of the rotors on Friday, the command sequence controlling the test ended early due to a ‘watchdog’ timer expiration,” wrote the agency, in a blog. “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.”

NASA says its helicopter team is reviewing telemetry to diagnose and understand the issue, and when this work is complete they will reschedule the full-speed test.

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The Perseverance rover captured this image with its SHERLOC WATSON camera on 30 March 2021. It shows the soon-to-be-dropped-off Ingenuity in place underneath the rover. Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech

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