Rocks and rover wheels star in the Mars chopper’s view of the red planet.
Houston, we have a… photo of Mars snapped by NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter. The pic is notable for being the first color image snapped by the little chopper, which is currently legs down on the red planet preparing for its historic flight through the Martian skies later this month.
The color imager aboard Ingenuity snapped the low-resolution image on Saturday. The photo shows the rocky floor of the Perseverance rover’s landing site at Jezero Crater, a giant impact basin just north of the Martian equator. Also visible in the shot are two wheels of NASA’s rover, which cradled Ingenuity in its belly before deploying it to the surface of Mars over the weekend.
The photo probably won’t win any space photography awards, but it’s yet another exciting and hopeful sign the ambitious chopper is operating as planned.
The solar-powered Ingenuity continues to clear hurdles on its way to marking the first powered, controlled flight on another planet. It survived its first cold night alone on Mars, a significant feat as the planet’s temperatures drop as low as minus 130 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 90 degrees Celsius) in the Jezero Crater. Such bitter cold can harm the chopper’s sensitive electronics and batteries, but the machine stayed warm thanks to insulation, heaters and adequate battery power.
Ingenuity will soon release the restraints on its rotor blades and test both the blades and motors. NASA is eyeing April 11 for its first short hovering test flight. If that goes well, more flight tests will follow.
During each of Ingenuity’s test flights, the helicopter’s imager is expected to produce several higher-resolution images than the first color shot above. Keep your Mars-facing eyes peeled.