NASA Can't Make History Until Updating Ingenuity's Software

Due to a small anomaly with the helicopter, the world will need to wait a little longer.
Derya Ozdemir

While the world was preparing for the exciting moment of the historic first flight of Ingenuity, the tiny Mars helicopter had other plans — based on data that arrived Friday, April 9 night, NASA scientists rescheduled Ingenuity's first experimental flight to no earlier than April 14, according to a press release by the space agency.

Ingenuity was meant to take flight April 11; however, during the testing of its rotor at high speed, "the command sequence controlling the test ended early due to a 'watchdog' timer expiration," NASA wrote in a statement released on April 10. "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's team of scientists is working on the issue by reviewing data to understand what exactly occurred, and thankfully, a program designed to keep Ingenuity safe on Mars is doing its job. 

Jet Propulsion Lab division of NASA explained in a tweet that the rover requires a new software update to become operational. The software update part is quite straightforward but the updates note that “. . . validating it and completing its uplink to Ingenuity will take some time.” 

The tiny chopper will have to remain planted firmly on Mars' surface for about two weeks, the new date will be announced next week. 

What to expect:

Ingenuity is continuing its lifetime on the surface of the Red Planet since Feb. 18. The helicopter, if or when it completes its mission successfully, will enable engineers to develop more technically advanced vehicles that could one day pioneer flight on other worlds. It is highly important since there's never been another propelled vehicle flying attempt on another planet. 

To give you a timeline, Ingenuity was unfolded and deployed from the belly of NASA's car-sized Perseverance rover after it situated at its landing site in Jezero Crater on April 5. 

Then, 4-lb. (1.8-kilogram) Ingenuity, alone without Perseverance's heat, had to survive the cold Martian night on its own, using the energy its solar panel harvested. Afterward, NASA engineers unlocked its blades and they were tested at a low speed.

It was the testing of its blades at full speed which forced NASA to delay the flight of the helicopter. Once the scientists study the data to diagnose and understand the issue and come to a conclusion, the full-speed test will be rescheduled shortly after.

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