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NASA Again Delays Mars Helicopter Test Flight

File- April 6, 2021 image made available by NASA shows the Perseverance Mars rover, foreground, and the Ingenuity helicopter about 13 feet (3.9 meters) behind.

Scientists with the U.S. space agency, NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) say the much-anticipated first flight of the Ingenuity helicopter on Mars has been delayed again while scientists make some software modifications.

Scientists had hoped to perform the first controlled powered flight of an aircraft on a planet other than Earth as early as Sunday. Problems encountered last week, though, when high-speed tests on the rotors were performed switching from “pre-flight” means the helicopter won’t be attempted as planned Wednesday.

A statement issued by JPL Tuesday said they identified a software solution to the problem, but that it would take some time to implement. They said it is not clear at this point when the tiny helicopter will make its first brief flight, but it likely will be next week sometime.

They scientists say all other systems on the Ingenuity helicopter are working as designed.

Ingenuity, weighing a mere 1.8 kilograms, was stowed away on the Perseverance rover probe when it landed on Mars in February. It was unfolded and dropped from the rover a bit more than a week ago to prepare its launch.

The helicopter is considered by NASA to be a technology demonstration, designed to test a new capability - in this case, flight in the thin Marian atmosphere - for the first time. It has specially designed rotors that spin much faster than they would have to on Earth to achieve flight. It also has innovative batteries and solar cells for recharging.

But aside from cameras, Ingenuity carries no scientific instruments. If successful, Ingenuity will pave the way for other more ambitious future robotic projects.