NASA recently had the Perseverance rover placing Ingenuity helicopter on the surface of Mars for the first time. The helicopter was scheduled to have its first test flight today, but that has now been delayed, with the flight happening no earlier than April 14. The helicopter’s first flight was delayed due to a safety alert while conducting a high-speed spin test of the rotors used to propel Ingenuity into the air.
Due to the safety alert generated during the test, NASA has delayed the helicopter’s initial flight. The agency says the Ingenuity helicopter is “safe and healthy.” NASA offered a few details on the error message received during the test indicated that the command sequence controlling the test ended early due to a “watchdog” timer expiration.” The warning was generated as controllers were trying to transition the flight computer from pre-flight to flight mode.
The watchdog timer that generated the alert is designed to oversee the command sequence and alert the system of any potential issues. The timer’s goal is to keep the system from proceeding with the test if an issue is observed. The engineering team is currently working to diagnose the problem and reschedule the rotor test based on findings from the investigation.
NASA expected the test flight date might change as engineers make adjustments and go through additional preflight checks for the helicopter. NASA has previously detailed how people interested in watching the test flight can do so. One method fans can keep up with the Ingenuity helicopter is via a live stream that will kick off before the flight begins on whatever date the flight test is confirmed for.
If NASA successfully flies the Ingenuity helicopter on Mars, it will be the first time controlled flight has happened on another planet. If the helicopter can function, it will change the way Mars is explored in the future.