Last week, NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter had its maiden voyage on Mars, marking the first time a power-controlled flight was successfully conducted on another planet. Ingenuity had its second successful flight on April 22 and made history once again, as NASA announced that the drone had managed to capture “the first color image of the Martian surface taken by an aerial vehicle while it was aloft.”
NASA released three photos, which were captured by Ingenuity’s built-in camera, and present an exciting look at the dusty red surface of Mars. You can clearly see the track marks from the Perseverance rover, as well as getting a glimpse of Mars’ horizon in the corner of one of the photos. You can also see the shadow of Ingenuity in the photo, as it is floating above the surface of the red planet.
In a press release, NASA said that Ingenuity was 17 feet above the surface when it took the photos and that the flight lasted for about a minute. Ingenuity took its third flight on April 25, with the flight lasting nearly 80 seconds and the small helicopter traveling at almost 4.5 miles per hour.
Third flight in the history books✅
Our #MarsHelicopter continues to set records, flying faster and farther. The space chopper is demonstrating critical capabilities that could enable the addition of an aerial dimension to future missions to Mars & beyond. https://t.co/TNCdXWcKWE pic.twitter.com/Uaxrr23Rfh
— NASA JPL (@NASAJPL) April 25, 2021
The primary goal of Perseverance’s mission to Mars is to try and find evidence that life may have previously existed on our neighboring planet. NASA chose to land the rover near the Jezero Crater, in large part because it is believed to have been the home of an ancient river delta billions of years ago.
The hope is that Perseverance will be able to collect soil samples that may potentially provide evidence of past life on Mars — furthering our space exploration for decades to come. And Ingenuity is expected to play a large role in helping Perseverance find these samples, as its ability to fly successfully should allow it to find ideal areas for collecting soil.