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Following a few minor computer glitches that they ran across during a rotor spin test, the engineers at NASA  have decided to delay the Ingenuity helicopter’s debut flight on Mars. It has instead been pushed back until April 14th. This could be pushed back further if they encounter any more problems. The craft itself is functioning perfectly but the telemetry data requires so extra observation in light of the recent stumbling blocks.

The tiny helicopter safely landed on Mars attached to NASA’s Perseverance rover back in mid-February. Ingenuity was due to take its flight test Sunday, April 11th which technically would have been mid-day if we are going on Mars time zones. The scheduled flight, if it had gone ahead would have sent back plenty of data to earth in time for Monday morning (4 AM ET) however the aforementioned rotor test scheduled for the Friday before soon put an end to things.

NASA said that the test sequence appeared to have “ended early due to a ‘watchdog’ timer expiration,” that took place as Ingenuity’s computer was attempting to switch from pre-flight mode to flight mode. Although it is just a software hitch they don’t want to risk physical repercussions.

In a recent blog post mentioned by Joey Roulette at theverge; NASA spoke of the watchdog timer software capabilities and stressed that the helicopter itself is functioning in great condition and maintained contact with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California where engineers are observing and working remotely from.

The watchdog timer in question is a software program that oversees test sequence processes and allows the engineers to remotely check what is going on. If anything appears out of the ordinary it can alert the engineers and it can stop processes if the operation isn’t going as planned. This adds a safety level to the system and is a good idea, given that the trip there was a long one and the development has been a tonne of work. 

Ingenuity has had a fair few hoops to jump through since its initial deployment on the Martian surface. Since the Perseverance dropped its passenger on April 4th,  Ingenuity began a 31-day countdown with five different test flights planned. The first of which will be a 10 feet ascent above the surface hovering for just 30 seconds. This may not sound like a big deal but it will be the first-ever recorded powered flight on another planet. With the first flight test ticked off the list, the following tests will be aiming for higher altitudes and navigating its dedicated flight zone situated within the Jezero Crater on Mars.

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