See what a NASA Mars orbiter has seen from above

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It was already impressive when NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) managed to spot the Perseverance rover shortly after it landed on the surface of Mars last year.

Now the orbiter’s powerful HiRISE (High Resolution Imaging Experiment) camera has somehow picked out Perseverance’s plucky traveling companion, the Ingenuity helicopter.

Ingenuity consists of no more than a small metal box and a set of 1.2 meter long blades. Ingenuity is small compared to the car-sized rover and therefore much harder to spot from above.

But in the recently released image below, we can make out the drone-like flying machine about 180 miles below the orbiter.

NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter seen from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

Since reaching Mars in February 2021, and after taking its historic maiden flight two months later to become the first aircraft to achieve powered and controlled flight on another planet, Ingenuity has completed a further 22 flights, and there are there are more in line. To date, the longest one-way trip has involved a flight of just over 631 meters, while the flight time record stands at 169.5 seconds.

More airborne missions are planned for Ingenuity as NASA uses the helicopter to support Perseverance’s explorations while collecting data to help engineers develop a next-generation Mars drone.

Two hundred meters east of Ingenuity, Perseverance is easier to spot in this HiRISE image.

NASA’s Perseverance rover seen from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. NASA/JPL-Caltech/UArizona

According to NASA, Perseverance is shown on the fractured bedrock of what is known as the Máaz Formation, a feature believed to be of igneous (volcanic) origin. “The primary scientific target is the delta deposit believed to have formed billions of years ago from sediment that once carried an ancient river, still several miles to the north,” the agency said in a report on its website. .

Perseverance explores the surface of Mars looking for evidence of ancient microbial life and also collects rock samples for return to Earth in a later mission. It’s also hoped that other discoveries from the rover will help NASA better plan its first manned mission to Mars, though no firm date has yet been set for that particular endeavor.

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