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Watch NASA's Mars helicopter Ingenuity test its blades! (video)

Update for April 10: NASA has delayed the first flight of the Ingenuity helicopter on Mars until no earlier than Wednesday (April 14) after a final preflight test ended early.


NASA's Mars helicopter Ingenuity is warming up its rotor blades as the team's engineers undertake final preparations for its first-ever flight on the Red Planet, scheduled for Sunday (April 11).

The agency will hold a final preflight news conference today (April 9) at 1 p.m. EDT (1700 GMT), which you can watch on this page or directly on NASA TV. The event promises to offer more details about how the helicopter will operate during its first flight attempt.

In one of the last tests before attempting to take off, the helicopter warmed up its rotor blades, moving them at a speed of 50 revolutions per minute. "Wiggle, wiggle, wiggle," NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) wrote in a tweet posted on April 9. "With just a little bit of swing, the #MarsHelicopter has moved its blades & spun to 50 rpm in preparation for first flight!"

Helicopter on Mars! NASA teaches kids about Ingenuity's upcoming 1st flight

A view of Ingenuity's blades being tested at 50 revolutions per minute.  (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU)
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That's still much more slowly than the blades will spin during the real flight, and NASA will conduct one more test on the ground to more closely mimic the rotors' airborne speed of 2,400 rpm before the helicopter takes flight.

Meanwhile, the car-sized Perseverance rover that carried Ingenuity to the Red Planet is about halfway through the drive from Ingenuity's airfield to the overlook about 200 feet (60 meters) away, where the rover will be stationed to watch the flight attempt through its cameras, according to a separate tweet from the mission's account.

The Perseverance rover captured this image of the Ingenuity helicopter during preflight preparations on April 9, 2021. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU)

Today's event will feature Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA's associate administrator for science; Elsa Jensen, uplink operations lead at Malin Space Science Systems for the Mastcam-Z camera on Perseverance that will watch the flight; and three Ingenuity team members at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California: project manager MiMi Aung, operations lead Tim Canham and test engineer Amelia Quon.

Email Meghan Bartels at mbartels@space.com or follow her on Twitter @meghanbartels. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.

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Meghan Bartels
SPACE.COM SENIOR WRITER — Meghan is a science journalist based in New York City. She joined Space.com in July 2018, with previous writing published in outlets including Newsweek and Audubon. Meghan earned an MA in science journalism from New York University and a BA in classics from Georgetown University, and in her free time she enjoys reading and visiting museums. Follow her on Twitter at @meghanbartels.