Categories: Mars

Long-Range Photo of Ingenuity Taken by Perseverance’s SuperCam Instrument

NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter is a stunning achievement of engineering, design, and, well, ingenuity. The dual-rotor craft can be seen taking off and landing in this remarkable video, taken by the Mastcam-Z, an imager aboard the Perseverance Mars Rover. Mastcam-Z is a tremendous scientific instrument, but this article’s truly outstanding lead image was taken with Perseverance’s SuperCam instrument.

Published by Kevin Gill, self-described software engineer, planetary and climate data wrangler, science data visualization artist, the image gives a visceral sense of the robotic aircraft’s journey on the red planet. 

Artist’s rendering of the SuperCam laser in action on Mars. Credit NASA

The image was produced by SuperCam’s color remote micro-imager (RMI), one of a suite of instruments that help to put the Super in SuperCam. SuperCam also utilizes Laser-Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS). This elemental composition process involves using a powerful infrared laser to vaporize rock samples and analyze their chemical makeup. It is almost surreal to realize that a nuclear-powered minivan-sized science rover is driving around the planet Mars, blasting rocks with a powerful laser. Then, using the same suite of instruments, it takes high-resolution photographs of the experimental helicopter that it brought on its interplanetary excursion.

Perseverance ‘selfie’ including the Ingenuity helicopter in the background. This region of Mars is now known as Wright Brothers Field, and a small piece of fabric from the original Wright Flyer is stowed aboard the helicopter. For a sense of scale, note that the wheels of the rover are roughly half a meter in diameter. Credit NASA

Along with RMI and LIBS, Supercam also performs various kinds of spectroscopic analysis. These include 532 nm Raman spectroscopy, Time-Resolved Fluorescence (TFR) spectroscopy, and Visible and InfraRed (VISIR) reflectance spectroscopy. All of this means that SuperCam can do a whole lot more than an ordinary camera, and we can gain insight into the mineralogy, chemistry, and atomic composition of a much broader swath of Mars. It has clearly earned the ‘super’ in its name.

SuperCam before installation on the Perseverance rover. Credit CNES

It is easy to forget how remarkable Ingenuity and Perseverance are. They are on another planet, after all! The photographs and videos coming back from these missions leave me with a sense of awe and wonder. Sometimes it feels unreal. The gritty, high-resolution SuperCam image of Ingenuity reinforces the reality of exploring another planet. 

A color picture taken mid-flight on April 25, 2021 by the Ingenuity helicopter. The Perseverance rover is visible in this otherworldly aerial photograph. Credit NASA/JPL-Caltech

Mars exploration has come a long way since the plucky Sojourner rover from 1997’s Mars Pathfinder mission. The incredible capabilities of Perseverance and Ingenuity seem almost like science fiction, and it is remarkable to watch as they continue to explore the planet and send back stunning data, videos, and images for us curious Earthlings to enjoy.

Lead Image: A look at the Ingenuity from Perseverance’s SuperCam instrument. Credit NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL/CNES/IRAP/Kevin M. Gill

Follow Ralph Crewe on Twitter @RalphCrewe.

Watch Ralph Crewe explore unusual and interesting topics on YouTube.




Kevin Gill Flickr

Ralph Crewe

Recent Posts

Upcoming Missions Could Search for Ancient Alien Technology Within the Solar System

In a recent report, researchers with the Penn State Extraterrestrial Intelligence Center recommend that we…

5 mins ago

Another Ghostly Spiral Galaxy Revealed by JWST

The famous American baseball player once said, "You can observe a lot just by watching."…

6 hours ago

Climate Change is Making the Skies Worse for Astronomy

Light pollution. Satellite trains and radio frequency interference. Encroaching civilization. These all pose threats to…

7 hours ago

TESS Finds a Super-Earth and two Mini-Neptunes in a Single System

A recent study based on TESS data has revealed a three-planet system (two mini-Neptunes and…

8 hours ago

This is the Last Thing DART saw as it Smashed Into its Asteroid Target

The first-ever planetary defense technology demonstration mission successfully conducted its mission, slamming into the surface…

8 hours ago

Scientists in Antarctica Have Access to Starlink Now. It’s Available on 7 Continents

SpaceX’s Starlink service is now available in Antarctica, according to a tweet from the National…

20 hours ago