Here’s the first colour photo of Mars taken by Ingenuity helicopter

Mars’ Ingenuity helicopter is alive and well on the red planet. The helicopter, which was attached to the Perseverance rover, took its first colour photo of the Jezero crater.

NASA released the photo this week, explaining that Perseverance will head even further out, to the Van Zyl Overlook for a “good view of the airfield where Ingenuity landed”.

Mars Perseverance mission

The Mars Perseverance rover landed approximately 45 kilometres from Jezero back in February with the Ingenuity helicopter attached underneath. The helicopter was deployed on Saturday.

As per the statement, Ingenuity will lift off on Sunday, 11 April to conduct the first-ever powered flight over Martian skies. In fact, it will be the first time we’ve flown aircraft beyond Earth.

NASA explained that Ingenuity will demonstrate that its “exploration mode” is possible on Mars. The success of this mission will mean that helicopters become a commonly included item on future missions.

Ingenuity helicopter specs

While on Mars, the rover will document the 1.8-kilogram Ingenuity’s flight programme from Van Zyl Overlook, fully utilising the high-resolution MastCam-Z camera system onboard.

The craft is also equipped with two microphones, which means Perseverance could potentially record audio of the flight path as well. However, there are no guarantees, “given how quickly sound attenuates in the thin Martian atmosphere”.

ingenuity helicopter mars
In this illustration, NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter stands on the Red Planet’s surface as NASA’s Perseverance rover (partially visible) rolls away. Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Live Science explains that “Ingenuity’s flight program is hard-capped at one month because Perseverance has business of its own to attend to”. It will collect samples that will be returned to Earth in 2031.

“The $2.7 billion rover will search for signs of ancient Mars Life on the floor of Jezero, which hosted a river delta and a big lake billions of years ago”. 

Mars’ Jezero crater

It is believed that the Jezero crater once supported life on the now-barren planet. NASA chose the Jezero crater as the landing site for the Perseverance rover because scientists believe the area was once flooded with water and was home to an ancient river delta.

Jezero Crater tells a story of the on-again, off-again nature of the wet past of Mars. More than 3.5 billion years ago, river channels spilt over the crater wall and created a lake. Scientists see evidence that water carried clay minerals from the surrounding area into the crater lake. Conceivably, microbial life could have lived in Jezero during one or more of these wet times. 

NASA

Planetary scientist at Purdue University and a member of the Perseverance science team, Briony Horgan and her team also discovered that carbonate minerals may have formed in Lake Jezero.

The breakthrough came from using data from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). Jezero, therefore, tells a story of the on-again, off-again nature of the wet past of Mars.

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Presh JM Reporter

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