WHAT’S BEING CLAIMED:
- NASA’s “Ingenuity” helicopter snapped its first color photo of Mars on April 3.
- The low-resolution photo shows the rocky floor of Mars’ Jezero Crater.
- Ingenuity will take to the skies on April 11 for its first hover test flight.
NASA’s little helicopter on Mars snapped its first color photograph of the planet on April 3.
Ingenuity, the chopper that weighs 4-lb. (1.8 kilograms), snapped the photo shortly after being lowered to the planet’s ground by the Perseverance rover.
The low-resolution image shows the Martian Jezero Crater’s rocky floor and two wheels of NASA’s Perseverance rover that carried Ingenuity to the surface of Mars.
On February 18, the car-sized Perseverance landed inside the 28-mile-wide Jezero Crater with Ingenuity clinging to its belly. The rover deployed Ingenuity to the surface of Mars on Saturday and the solar-powered helicopter has since moved a short distance away.
Meanwhile, Perseverance will drive further to Van Zyl Overlook over the next few days. The place will provide a good view of the airfield chosen for Ingenuity, which is set to take to the skies on April 11 for the first-ever powered flight beyond the Earth’s skies.
According to NASA officials, if the month-long, five-flight campaign of Ingenuity goes according to plan, more helicopters would be used as rovers and explorers in Mars missions.
During its test flight, Ingenuity is tasked to snap higher-resolution photos than the grainy one it captured on Saturday, said the NASA officials.
Perseverance is tasked to document Ingenuity’s test flight from Van Zyl Overlook using a high-resolution MastCam-Z camera system, and two onboard microphones that might also record audio of Ingenuity’s mission. However, there are no guarantees of getting audio given how the thin Martian atmosphere weakens sound.
After Ingenuity’s month-long flight program, Perseverance will search for signs of ancient life on Mars’ Jezero floor, which was the site of a river delta and a lake billions of years ago.
The $2.7 billion rover will also collect and store samples, which the NASA-European Space Agency campaign will bring to Earth at around early 2031.