First Mars flight of NASA’s Ingenuity mini helicopter delayed

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A picture provided by A picture provided by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) on 06 April 2021, shows NASA's Ingenuity Mars Helicopter on the 45th Martian day of the mission. NASA is targeting no earlier than Sunday, 11 April 2021, for Ingenuity Mars Helicopter's first attempt at powered, controlled flight on another planet. Photo: Jpl-Caltech/Nasa via ZUMA Wire/dpa
A picture provided by A picture provided by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) on 06 April 2021, shows NASA's Ingenuity Mars Helicopter on the 45th Martian day of the mission. NASA is targeting no earlier than Sunday, 11 April 2021, for Ingenuity Mars Helicopter's first attempt at powered, controlled flight on another planet. Photo: Jpl-Caltech/Nasa via ZUMA Wire/dpa

(dpa) – NASA has delayed its first flight on another planet as it seeks to fix technical issues in the Ingenuity miniature helicopter, the US space agency said Saturday.

Ingenuity – which arrived on Mars on board the Perseverance rover – will not attempt its first flight before April 14.

The earliest date had previously been given as Sunday, April 11.

A high-speed spin test of Ingenuity’s rotors on Friday ended early when problems arose during the transition from pre-flight to flight mode, NASA said.

The space agency said the helicopter is “safe and healthy” and had sent data back to Earth.

A team is checking the data to diagnose the issue and will reschedule the full-speed test after the review is finished.

The test flight will see the helicopter, which weighs in at around 1.8 kilograms, attempt to fly about 3 metres high, remain in one place for around 30 seconds and then return to the surface of Mars.

It would be the first flight of an aircraft on another planet.

The helicopter is powered with lithium batteries and has capacity for several more flight attempts for about one month.

It faces extreme conditions on Mars: temperatures of minus 90 degrees Celsius, low gravity and a thin atmosphere.

Ingenuity travelled to Mars aboard the Perseverance rover, which weighs around 1,000 kilograms and is the size of a small car.

The rover arrived on the Red Planet in February after travelling 472 kilometres over 203 days of flight. It landed in a dried lake spanning 45 kilometres called the Jezero Crater, which it is to inspect in the coming two years.

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