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Mars Image of the Week

Ingenutiy hovering above the surface of Mars

Ingenutiy hovering over the surface of Mars

NASA’s Perseverance rover took this shoot while Ingenuity Mars Helicopter hovering over the Martian surface on April 21, 2021, during the second powered, controlled flight. Ingenuity used its navigation camera, which autonomously tracks the ground during flight.

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For the first time, a spacecraft on another planet has recorded the sounds of a separate spacecraft. NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover used one of its two microphones to listen as the Ingenuity helicopter flew for the fourth time on April 30, 2021. A new video combines footage of the solar-powered helicopter taken by Perseverance’s Mastcam-Z imager with audio from a microphone belonging to the rover’s SuperCam laser instrument.

The laser zaps rocks from a distance, studying their vapor with a spectrometer to reveal their chemical composition. The instrument’s microphone records the sounds of those laser strikes, which provide information on the physical properties of the targets, such as their relative hardness. The microphone can also record ambient noise, like the Martian wind.

With Perseverance parked 262 feet (80 meters) from the helicopter’s takeoff and landing spot, the rover mission wasn’t sure if the microphone would pick up any sound of the flight. Even during flight, when the helicopter’s blades spin at 2,537 rpm, the sound is greatly muffled by the thin Martian atmosphere. It is further obscured by Martian wind gusts during the initial moments of the flight. Listen closely, though, and the helicopter’s hum can be heard faintly above the sound of those winds.

 

Ingenuity successfully completed its fourth flight today. The helicopter took off at 8:19 PM IST(10:49 AM EST) or 12:33 local Mars time, climbing to an altitude of 16 feet (5 meters) before flying south approximately 436 feet (133 meters) and then back, for an 872-foot (266-meter) round trip. In total, Ingenuity was in the air for 117 seconds. That’s another set of records for the helicopter, even compared to the spectacular third flight.

The Red Planet rotorcraft will shift focus from proving flight is possible on Mars to demonstrating flight operations that future aerial craft could utilize.

NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter has a new mission. Having proven that powered, controlled flight is possible on the Red Planet, the Ingenuity experiment will soon embark on a new operations demonstration phase, exploring how aerial scouting and other functions could benefit future exploration of Mars and other worlds.

This new phase will begin after the helicopter completes its next two flights. The decision to add an operations demonstration is a result of the Perseverance rover being ahead of schedule with the thorough checkout of all vehicle systems since its Feb 18 landing, and its science team choosing a nearby patch of crater bed for its first detailed explorations. With the Mars Helicopter’s energy, telecommunications, and in-flight navigation systems performing beyond expectation, an opportunity arose to allow the helicopter to continue exploring its capabilities with an operations demonstration, without significantly impacting rover scheduling.

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