Here’s something you’ve never seen before.
NASA Mars helicopter ingenuity managed to photograph the agency Persistence all-terrain vehicle from the air on Sunday (April 25), providing an unprecedented view of a robot explorer on the surface of another world.
“Oh, here I am! I never thought that I would be the subject of another photographer on Mars. Great shot by the #MarsHelicopter team ”, curators of Perseverance said via the official rover account @NASAPersevereTwitter on Tuesday night (April 27) when the photo was posted.
The NASA Pathfinder lander photographed the world’s first Sojourner rover on the Red Planet back in 1997. But both of these robots were firmly on the ground.
Connected: How NASA’s Martian Helicopter Ingenuity Could Fly the Red Planet
4 lbs. The 1.8 kilogram helicopter was about 279 feet (85 meters) from Perseverance when it snapped the picture flying at an altitude of about 16.5 feet (5 m), NASA officials said in the photo description.
The milestone occurred during Ingenuity’s third flight to Mars, the largest flight to date. Ingenuity traveled on Sunday much faster and farther than before, covering a total distance of about 330 feet (100 m).
Ingenuity is a demonstration of technology designed to show that aerial exploration of Mars is possible. According to NASA officials, the rotorcraft does not have scientific instruments, but paves the way for future helicopters to Mars, which could independently collect a lot of data, as well as serve as scouts for rovers and human pioneers on the Red Planet.
Ingenuity and perseverance together landed in the 28 miles (45 kilometers) wide Jezero crater on Mars on February 18. The helicopter took off from the womb of the car-sized rover six weeks later. first took to the skies on April 19, who made the first ever controlled flight with an engine over the world beyond Earth.
The Ingenuity team plans to pack two more flights into the helicopter’s monthly flight window, which closes in early May. And this window will not have an extension; Perseverance, which documented and supported Ingenuity’s work, should soon focus on its own mission of sourcing and collecting samples.
These last two jumps are likely to be even more challenging and ambitious than Sunday’s departure as the team wants to push beyond the limits of the little robot. Ingenuity Project Manager MiMi Aung of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California said earlier this month that she would like the helicopter to fly about 2,000 feet (600 m) on its fifth and final flight, if possible.
It would be a real journey – we hope Ingenuity captures many more great aerial photographs.
Mike Wall is the author of “There“(Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Carl Tate), a book on the quest for alien life. Follow it on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.