NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter runs into trouble on Mars delaying flight

The maiden flight of NASA's Ingenuity Mars helicopter has been delayed to no earlier than April 14.
The historic maiden flight will see NASA’s Ingenuity Mars helicopter climb to an altitude of three meters before hovering for 20 seconds and touching back down | Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU

NASA’s Ingenuity Mars helicopter autonomously aborted a key test early prompting ground controllers to delay its maiden flight.

In preparation for the maiden flight of NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter, ground controllers have been systematically completing key preparation milestones to ensure its success.

After unlocking and conducting an initial slow spin of the helicopter’s rotor blades, ground controllers proceeded with a high-speed spin test on April 9. During this test, an as yet unknown issue arose triggering Ingenuity’s command sequence “watchdog” timer, which oversees the command sequence and alerts the system of any potential issues.

In an April 10 update, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory stated that ground controllers are currently reviewing telemetry to diagnose and understand the issue.

Although Ingenuity’s historic maiden flight has already been rescheduled to no earlier than April 14, the issue will need to be resolved before the helicopter is able to leave Martian soil for the first time.

Once it does, its maiden flight will see Ingenuity climb to an altitude of three meters at a speed of 1m/s. Once at altitude, it will however for 20 seconds before descending and touching back down.

The historic flight will be the first controlled powered flight on another planet. It will be over in less than a minute and with an 11-minute-plus transmission delay between Earth and Mars, it will be long completed before mission controllers learn the outcome of the test.

In addition to onboard cameras documenting Ingenuity’s maiden flight, NASA’s Perseverance rover will also document the flight from a vantage point close by. Perseverance will also act as a transmission relay between Earth and the diminutive robotic explorer.

Andrew Parsonson is a space enthusiast and the founder of Rocket Rundown. He has worked as a journalist and blogger for various industries for over 5 years and has a passion for both fictional and real-life space travel. Currently, Andrew is the primary writer for Rocket Rundown as we look to expand our reach and credibility.