FIRST color aerial images of the Mars surface from NASA's Ingenuity

See Mars at new heights! NASA shares FIRST color aerial photos of the Martian surface snapped by Ingenuity while soaring 17ft in the air during its second flight

  • Ingenuity has captured the first color aerial photographs of the surface of Mars during its second flight
  • The copter snapped three images while soaring 17 feet above the Martian landscape April 22
  • The photographs were captured using Ingenuity’s high resolution camera that has a 4208 x 3120-pixel sensor
  • The images also captured tire marks on the ground that were left by the six-wheeled Perseverance rover 

NASA has shared the first color aerial images of the surface of Mars that were taken by Ingenuity during its second successful flight through the Martian atmosphere.

The historic photographs were captured while the helicopter hovered 17 feet above the surface while it travels away from Perseverance, but manages to snap the rover’s tire marks.

The color images were snapped using Ingenuity’s high resolution camera that has a 4208 x 3120-pixel sensor, as the device pointed 22 degrees below the horizon.

‘The image, as well as the inset showing a closeup of a portion of the tracks [of] the Perseverance Mars rover and Mars surface features, demonstrates the utility of scouting Martian terrain from an aerial perspective,’ NASA explained.

Ingenuity first made history on April 18 when it became the first powered craft to fly on another planet in what NASA deems a ‘Wright Brothers moment.’

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NASA has shared the first color aerial images of the surface of Mars that were taken by Ingenuity during its second successful flight through the Martian atmosphere. The historic photographs were captured while the helicopter hovered 17 feet above the surface while it travels away from Perseverance, but manages to snap the rover’s tire marks

Taking off at exactly 3:34am ET, it climbed up to 10ft in the air, maintained a stable hover for 30 seconds before descending and touching back down on the surface of Mars. It spent 39.1 seconds in flight, NASA said.

Flying on Mars is particularly challenging due to the fact its atmosphere is just one percent of Earth’s at ground level, and while the lower gravity, a third of that on Earth, helps, it is only a partial offset against the thinner atmosphere.

This means that in order to fly, the helicopter has be ultra-light and rotate its blades extremely fast in order to achieve lift. For today’s test flight the blades spun to 2,500rpm, allowing it to hover 10 feet off the ground.

That is up five times faster than the blades of a helicopter on Earth. Smaller choppers’ blades spin up to 500 times a minute in flight, while larger aircraft such as twin-rotored copters such as Chinooks may only spin their blades 225 times a minute. 

A part of Ingenuity’s shadow was captured as it hovered over the dusty Martian landscape on April 22. And the image also shows tread markings left in the ground by Perseverance’s six tires during the trip of dropping Ingenuity off at the Martian airfield that has since been named ‘Wright Brothers Field

‘What is exciting is that this helicopter has flown hundreds, if not thousands of times, but always in simulations, said Håvard Fjær Grip, Ingenuity Chief Pilot, following the first flight.

On April 22, the copter marked another successful flight, which was higher than the previous, when it climbed to 16 feet above the surface, hovered, tilted slightly and then moved seven feet sideways – and this is when it snapped the color images.

A part of Ingenuity’s shadow was captured as it hovered over the dusty Martian landscape on April 22.

And the image also shows tread markings left in the ground by Perseverance’s six tires during the trip of dropping Ingenuity off at the Martian airfield that has since been named ‘Wright Brothers Field.’

‘As an homage to the two innovative bicycle makers from Dayton, this first of many airfields on other worlds will now be known as Wright Brothers Field, in recognition of the ingenuity and innovation that continue to propel exploration,’ said NASA Associate Administrator for Science Thomas Zurbuchen said during a livestream following Ingenuity’s first flight.

‘While these two iconic moments in aviation history may be separated by time and 173 million miles of space, they now will forever be linked.’

Ingenuity snapped the historic images by pointing its high-powered camera 22 degrees below the horizon.

‘Perseverance itself is located top center, just out frame. ‘Wright Brothers Field’ is in the vicinity of the helicopter’s shadow, bottom center, with the actual point of takeoff of the helicopter just below the image,’ NASA shard in a statement.

On April 22, the copter marked another successful flight, which was higher than the previous, when it climbed to 16 feet above the surface, hovered, tilted slightly and then moved seven feet sideways – and this is when it snapped the color images

Ingenuity completed its third (pictured) powered flight on Mars this past Sunday. The copter covered a light distance of 64 feet while hitting speeds of 4.5mpg – four times faster than before

‘A portion of the landing pads on two of the helicopter’s four landing legs can be seen in on the left and right sides of the image, and a small portion of the horizon can be seen at the upper right and left corners.’

Ingenuity completed its third powered flight on Mars this past Sunday.

The copter covered a light distance of 64 feet while hitting speeds of 4.5mpg – four times faster than before.

The Perseverance rover, which carried the four-pound rotorcraft to Mars, filmed the 80-second third flight on Mastcam-Z. NASA said Sunday that video clips would be sent to Earth in the coming days.

NASA announced it is now preparing for a fourth flight. Each flight is planned to be of increasing difficulty in order to push Ingenuity to its limits.

The Ingenuity experiment will end in one month in order to let Perseverance return to its main task: searching for signs of past microbial life on Mars.

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