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NASA delays Mars helicopter flight again for software update

A NASA illustration shows the Mars helicopter Ingenuity on the surface of the Red Planet in preparation for its first flight. Image courtesy of NASA
A NASA illustration shows the Mars helicopter Ingenuity on the surface of the Red Planet in preparation for its first flight. Image courtesy of NASA

ORLANDO, Fla., April 13 (UPI) -- NASA has postponed the flight of the Mars helicopter Ingenuity, the first controlled flight on another planet, to work through a software problem.

The flight had been planned for Thursday and then delayed to Sunday. NASA didn't immediately set a new target date for the flight.

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"Our best estimate of a targeted flight date is fluid right now, but we are working toward achieving these milestones and will set a flight date next week," the agency said in a news release.

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NASA's Mars rover, Perseverance, carried the tiny, 4-pound helicopter under its chassis when it landed on the Red Planet on Feb. 18. Since then, NASA has overseen its robotic release and prepared the aircraft for flight.

During a test of Ingenuity's dual, carbon-fiber rotors Friday, engineers identified a problem with the sequence of commands that would initiate flight, according to NASA. The rotors must spin at speeds that far exceed a helicopter on Earth to compensate for the thin Martian atmosphere.

"While the development of the new software change is straightforward, the process of validating it and completing its uplink to Ingenuity will take some time," NASA said.

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Otherwise, the helicopter remains in good condition in Jezero Crater on the planet's northern hemisphere, the space agency said.

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NASA's Perseverance Mars rover used its dual-camera Mastcam-Z imager to capture this image of "Santa Cruz," a hill about 1.5 miles away from the rover, on April 29. The entire scene is inside of Mars' Jezero Crater. The crater's rim can be seen on the horizon line beyond the hill. Photo courtesy of NASA | License Photo

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