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Software Issue Delays Mars Helicopter's Maiden Flight

An illustration of Ingenuity's flight test on Mars. Photo: NASA
An illustration of Ingenuity's flight test on Mars. Photo: NASA

A helicopter on Mars will have to wait another week to make its maiden flight on the red planet.

The tissue-box sized helicopter arrived on the red planet in February, hitching a ride on the belly of NASA’s Perseverance rover.  The team planned to fly the vehicle Sunday, but preflight checks put a hold on the mission.

As they did their investigations, they found out they're gonna need to do a bit of a long distance software upgrade," said space journalist and WeMartians host Jake Robins. "Not unlike when you have your computer telling you, you need to get a security update, Ingenuity needs one of those software patches. This time, we need to beam it over a couple 100 million kilometers."

NASA said the team will evaluate the progress and set a new flight date sometime next week.

If successfully, Ingenuity will make the first powered flight on another planet. It's a technology demonstration to see if a vehicle can fly in the thin atmosphere of Mars.

Once the test campaign starts the team will have around 30 days to make multiple flight attempts, reaching upwards of 30 feet into the Martian air.

Perseverance launched to Mars from Cape Canaveral last summer.

Brendan covers space news for WMFE, everything from rocket launches to the latest scientific discoveries in our universe. He hosts WMFE's weekly radio show and podcast "Are We There Yet?" which explores human space exploration. Brendan is a native Floridian, born and raised in Broward County. He moved to Central Florida in 2005 to attend the University of Central Florida. He began working at WMFE as a college intern where he discovered his love for public radio.