NASA Mars helicopter snaps Perseverance rover from mid-air and, yes, it’s amazing

Can you spot the Perseverance rover in this view of Mars snapped by the Ingenuity helicopter? Look hard.


NASA/JPL-Caltech

This story is part of Welcome to Mars, our series exploring the red planet.

Usually, the rover pictures we see from Mars are selfies, taken by the vehicles with their own cameras. But there’s nothing usual about flying a helicopter on Mars. NASA’s Ingenuity rotorcraft captured a poignant view of the Perseverance rover — from midair. 

On Sunday, Ingenuity was on its third (and most ambitious) flight when it snapped the rover. The helicopter was flying 16 feet (5 meters) off the ground and was 279 feet away from Perseverance at the time. 

The image isn’t exactly a Leibovitz. There’s a wide expanse of Martian landscape, and the rover appears tiny and nearly hidden in the upper left corner. What’s awe-inspiring is what the image represents: a helicopter flying on Mars and taking a photo of its rover companion. 

Here’s a zoomed-in look at the Perseverance rover as seen by Ingenuity’s camera.


NASA/JPL-Caltech

The Perseverance team tweeted a response to the image from the rover’s point of view: “Oh hey, there I am! Never thought I’d be the subject of another photographer on Mars. Great capture by the Mars helicopter team.”

NASA had emphasized how Ingenuity was a high-risk, high-reward technology demonstration, an experiment that may or may not work out. It’s worked out spectacularly well. The rotorcraft achieved the first powered, controlled flight on another planet

After the first brief hover, the subsequent tests have gotten more dramatic, with the rotorcraft going higher and faster and covering longer distances. The Ingenuity team is planning a fourth flight for the pioneering chopper.

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