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NASA delaying historic first flight of Mars helicopter

NASA says information received from the Ingenuity helicopter prompted a 3-day delay of the scheduled first powered flight on another planet.

NASA is delaying the planned first flight of its Ingenuity helicopter on Mars from Sunday to no earlier than Wednesday, saying the decision is based on data being received from the vehicle.

"During a high-speed spin test of the rotors on Friday, the command sequence controlling the test ended early due to a 'watchdog' timer expiration," NASA said on its website Saturday. "This occurred as it was trying to transition the flight computer from ‘Pre-Flight’ to ‘Flight’ mode. The helicopter is safe and healthy and communicated its full telemetry set to Earth."

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NASA added, "The watchdog timer oversees the command sequence and alerts the system to any potential issues. It helps the system stay safe by not proceeding if an issue is observed and worked as planned." NASA says the team is analyzing the problem.

Ingenuity traveled with the Perseverance rover, which landed on the red planet in February.

The attempt to fly Ingenuity will mark a "Wright brothers' moment," the first powered, controlled flight on another planet. The helicopter even holds a small swatch of fabric from the 1903 Wright Flyer, the first vehicle to obtain powered flight on Earth.

NASA's 4-pound helicopter will attempt to rise 10 feet into the extremely thin Martian air on its first hop. Up to five increasingly higher and longer flights are planned over the course of a month.