Story at a glance

  • The 4-pound helicopter used its built-in color camera during its second successful flight test Thursday to snap several photos of the planet’s barren surface.
  • The photos show the planet’s rocky, reddish-orange surface with Ingenuity’s shadow visible at the bottom of one of the images.
  • Ingenuity’s fourth flight is scheduled for later this week.

NASA has released the first color images of the surface of Mars that were captured in recent days by the space agency’s Ingenuity helicopter. 

The 4-pound helicopter used its built-in color camera during its second successful flight test Thursday to snap several photos of the planet’s barren surface. The photos show the planet’s rocky, reddish-orange surface with Ingenuity’s shadow visible at the bottom of one of the images. 


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The photos also show the tracks of the Perseverance rovers, which carried Ingenuity to the red planet and is on a two year mission to search for signs of ancient life. 

Ingenuity made history last week by carrying out the first-ever controlled flight of an aircraft on another planet. As the gravity on Mars is about one-third of that on Earth’s, getting the helicopter off the ground is challenging as Mars’s atmosphere is about 1 percent the density of Earth at its surface. Engineers used ultralight materials and 4-foot propellers that spin faster than those needed on Earth to get Ingenuity off the ground. 

On Sunday, the aircraft carried out its third and most successful flight when it flew faster and farther than ever before. 

The small aircraft rose 16 feet into the air before flying about 164 feet, just over half the length of a football field, at a top speed of about 4.5 miles per hour. That’s up from about 1.1 miles per hour during its first two flights. The flight lasted about 80 seconds. 

The third flight was captured on video by Perseverance’s camera. 

“Today’s flight was what we planned for, and yet it was nothing short of amazing,” Dave Lavery, program executive for Ingenuity Mars Helicopter at NASA Headquarters in Washington, said

“With this flight, we are demonstrating critical capabilities that will enable the addition of an aerial dimension to future Mars missions.” 

Ingenuity’s fourth flight is scheduled for later this week.  


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Published on Apr 27, 2021