NASA helicopter captures glorious view of Mars, with some surprises

    NASA’s extraterrestrial helicopter, Ingenuity, flew 40 feet into the Martian air and snapped an astonishing landscape on another world.

    On its 51st flight, the experimental craft — with rotors reaching four feet long from tip to tip — rose atop a hill just beyond the rim of Belva crater. The recently released view(opens in a new tab) is grandiose. It looks, dare one say, earthly. The rocky desert is in the foreground. Eroded, windswept hills roll through the horizon. The sky is bright.

    And scattered among the vista are some curious signs of human exploration.


    NASA released wild footage of Mars helicopter flying over an alien desert

    A Martian landscape with surprises.
    Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech

    Here they are:

    • Helicopter legs: On the right and left sides of Ingenuity’s image you can spot the ends of two of the spacecraft’s legs as it hovers in the air.

    • Helicopter shadow: At center-right, just to the right of a small grey rock, you can see Ingenuity’s small shadow on the ground.

    • The Perseverance rover: Perhaps most conspicuous is NASA’s Perseverance rover, which landed with Ingenuity in February 2021 with a primary goal of seeking out potential evidence of past microbial life on Mars — if any ever existed, that is. The car-sized, six-wheeled rover is near the top left.

    • Rover tracks: You can also spot the large robot’s trail. From Perseverance, follow two horizontal lines running to the right across the image. The wheels are metallic, so they’re truly noisy as they rumble over Mars’ rocky terrain.

    • Trash!: When the rover and its landing gear plummeted through the Martian atmosphere before a series of challenging landing maneuvers, debris such as wires and insulation were scattered throughout the desert. Just below the rover you can spot what NASA calls a “small piece of debris.”

    debris on Mars

    Debris on Mars spotted by NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter.
    Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech

    All of Ingenuity’s grand aerial views are an unexpected gift. Mission planners hoped they could get five flights out of the little chopper. Now it’s exceeded 50, with many more planned.

    The experimental Mars explorer is currently flying over more challenging terrain, a region rife with “dunes, boulders, and rocks, and surrounded by hills that could have us for lunch,” Josh Anderson, NASA’s Ingenuity operations lead, explained(opens in a new tab) a couple weeks ago.

    Stay tuned as Ingenuity and Perseverance explore deeper into Mars’ Jezero Crater, a land that is arid desert today, but once teemed with flowing water(opens in a new tab) and muddy deltas.

    Read the full article here

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