NASA‘s very own Mars Ingenuity helicopter has revealed further details of the “Red Planet” with its first-ever color photo. The photo identifies a sharper focus on Mars’ rusty, red-orange sandscape that blankets the surface of the planet.
The image was taken approximately 17 feet above the ground, displaying the track patterns left by the Perseverance rover, which is a remote-operated research vehicle that helped land the Ingenuity safely on Mars. The bottom of the photo showcases the Ingenuity’s shadow, alongside its spindly legs that are visibly jutting out from its rectangular body.
Not only is this the first photo taken by the Ingenuity, but according to NASA, it is also “the first color image of the Martian surface taken by an aerial vehicle while it was aloft.” This is in line with NASA’s initial mission for Ingenuity as its sole purpose was to test the space agency’s ability to operate aerial vehicles on Mars.
With each ascension, the Ingenuity spends more time off the ground. On its first flight, Ingenuity spent roughly 40 seconds off the ground, hovering just about 10 feet, while the second test went hire, closer to 17 feet, spending approximately one minute in the air. Although the numbers do not mean a lot, NASA explains that “Flight Three is a big step, one in which Ingenuity will begin to experience freedom in the sky.” People are seeing the culmination of years of work unfolding in a matter of minutes.
NASA’s Ingenuity is expected to help scientists better understand the aerodynamics of the Martian atmosphere so that tests such as exploring the viability of drawing oxygen out of Mars, could occur.
Take a look at the first aerial-color image of Mars below.
Range: 330ft (100m) roundtrip
Altitude: 16ft (5m)
Data expected later Sunday. Til then, peep this shot of rover tracks from the 2nd flight. pic.twitter.com/0qjtWC3jCz
— NASA JPL (@NASAJPL) April 23, 2021
In other space news, watch SpaceX launch astronauts into space on reused spacecraft for the first time.