NASA delays Ingenuity Mars helicopter's first flight to April 11

NASA's Mars helicopter Ingenuity will have to wait a few more days to make its historic first flight on the Red Planet. 

Ingenuity, which flew to Mars tucked into the belly of NASA's Perseverance rover that successfully landed on the planet Feb. 18, is set to make history with the first controlled, powered flight through another planet's atmosphere. 

The interplanetary helicopter was previously set to take off no sooner than April 8, but the little craft will now take flight no earlier than April 11, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, announced via Twitter Wednesday (March 31). 

Related: Mars helicopter Ingenuity gets 1st taste of Red Planet air (video)

Ingenuity extends vertically from the belly of the Perseverance rover on March 29, 2021, in this image  taken by the WATSON camera on the SHERLOC instrument, located at the end of the rover's robotic arm. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

"Come fly with us," JPL tweeted. "#MarsHelicopter is preparing to do something that's never been done: controlled, powered flight on another planet. Takeoff is now slated for no earlier than April 11, with data arriving on Earth on April 12."

The helicopter, located underneath the rover, has been unfurling from Perseverance's belly, preparing for the Flight. On March 21, Perseverance dropped a protective shield, which helped the helicopter to endure the perilous descent through Mars' atmosphere. It takes a bit of time for the helicopter to unfold and formally deploy for the flight. It takes about six sols, or six Mars days (one sol is equal to about 24 hours and 40 minutes on Earth, or a little more than one Earth day), NASA officials said in a statement

"It [the helicopter] is stowed sideways, folded up and locked in place, so there's some reverse origami to do before I can set it down. First though, I'll be off to the designated 'helipad,' a couple days' drive from here," Perseverance team members wrote on Twitter March 21. 

This graphic shows the activities NASA has planned for its Ingenuity Mars helicopter. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Once fully and safely deployed on Mars' surface, the Ingenuity flight campaign will begin. The mission team hopes to get the drone flying within 30 sols (or about 31 Earth days) of this deployment. 

Ingenuity is a technology demonstration. The first of its kind, these flights aim to prove that it is possible to fly a controlled, powered craft like the Mars Helicopter on another world. Ingenuity is set to make a few short flights, its only additional onboard technology being a camera. During these flights, Perseverance will also stand by and use its cameras to capture the events.

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Chelsea Gohd
Senior Writer

Chelsea “Foxanne” Gohd joined in 2018 and is now a Senior Writer, writing about everything from climate change to planetary science and human spaceflight in both articles and on-camera in videos. With a degree in Public Health and biological sciences, Chelsea has written and worked for institutions including the American Museum of Natural History, Scientific American, Discover Magazine Blog, Astronomy Magazine and Live Science. When not writing, editing or filming something space-y, Chelsea "Foxanne" Gohd is writing music and performing as Foxanne, even launching a song to space in 2021 with Inspiration4. You can follow her on Twitter @chelsea_gohd and @foxannemusic.