Ingenuity is now Scouting Ahead of Perseverance, Helping it Navigate Difficult Terrain

NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter recently surveyed a ridgeline near the ancient river delta in Mars’ Jezero Crater at request of the Perseverance rover’s science team. On the left is the full image Ingenuity acquired of the ridgeline on April 23, 2022, during its 27th flight. The science team calls the line of rocky outcrops running from the upper left to middle right of the main image “Fortun Ridge.” Enlarged at right is a close-up of one of the ridgeline’s rocky outcrops. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The Ingenuity Mars Helicopter is providing scientists a look at what is on the road ahead for the Perseverance rover. And acting as a scout, Ingenuity can tell the team what places to avoid, too.

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How Time Flies: Perseverance and Ingenuity Have Been on Mars for a Year

What a year it’s been — Earth year, that is!

The dramatic touchdown on Mars for the Perseverance rover and the stowaway Ingenuity helicopter on February 18, 2021 was a bright moment in a tumultuous year here on Earth. And even though the pandemic meant that many people were watching the event from home – even some of the Mars rover team – NASA made sure to share the event as widely as possible.

Here’s a video highlight of that day, with pictures and video from both planets, and watching it brings smiles, goosebumps tears of joy. Of course, the incredible video we received of the landing from from the rover itself – especially the sky-crane lowering Perseverance to the planet’s surface — is nothing short of stunning.

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Bad Weather Postpones Ingenuity’s 19th Flight on Mars

NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover took a selfie with the Ingenuity helicopter, seen here about 13 feet (3.9 meters) from the rover. This image was taken by the WASTON camera on the rover’s robotic arm on April 6, 2021, the 46th Martian day, or sol, of the mission. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS.

The first flight of 2022 for the Ingenuity Helicopter has been delayed due to a regional dust storm on Mars. Mission planners had originally targeted January 5 for the tiny helicopter’s 19th flight, but they needed to push back the flight when orbital images and weather instruments on the Perseverance rover indicated a worsening weather situation.

Weather conditions have now improved, however, and the Ingenuity team anticipates the next flight will take place on Sunday, January 23.

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You can Watch Ingenuity’s Flight on Mars, Captured by Perseverance

Artist's impression of the Mars Ingenuity helicopter flying from the Perseverance rover. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

New video beamed back to Earth from the Perseverance Rover shows an incredibly detailed view of the Ingenuity helicopter’s flight back in September. The video – taken from about 300 meters (328 yards) away — shows Ingenuity’s takeoff and landing with such detail, that even a little plume of dust is visible during the helicopter’s ascent.

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The Sounds of Mars: Hear the Wind and Crunch of Rover Wheels on the Red Planet

An illustration of the location of the two microphones on the Perseverance rover. Credit: NASA/JPL/CalTech

Two microphones aboard the Perseverance Rover have recorded “alien” sounds on Mars – the sounds of a human-made spacecraft crunching its wheels on the Red Planet’s surface, or its motors whirring, or blasts from its scientific laser instrument. Perseverance’s microphones have also captured the sounds of another spacecraft – the Ingenuity helicopter – taking flight. During the five or so hours recorded so far, you can hear the Martian wind gusting in the background.  

“We’ve been able to see Mars from the rovers’ point of view for a quite a long time now,” said Greg Delory, a consultant to the Mars 2020 rover microphone team, “so to have another ‘sense’ on Mars is pretty incredible.”

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Ingenuity Back in Action on Mars on its 14th Flight

Mars Helicopter Sol 241: Navigation Camera: NASA's Ingenuity Mars Helicopter acquired this image using its navigation camera. This camera is mounted in the helicopter's fuselage and pointed directly downward to track the ground during flight. This image was acquired on Oct. 24, 2021 (Sol 241 of the Perseverance rover mission) at the local mean solar time of 12:34:15. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The Ingenuity Mars Helicopter took a short hop flight on October 24, giving the mission team both a sigh of relief and an anticipatory look to future flights. This 14th flight of Ingenuity’s mission was a short 23-second hover, with a peak altitude of 16 feet (5 meters) above ground level, with a small sideways translation of 7 feet (2 meters) to avoid a nearby sand ripple.

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Ingenuity Sees Perseverance From Above

Where’s Waldo (or Where’s Wally) is a very popular book series for all ages.  One way to make it potentially more interesting is to adapt it to interplanetary exploration by searching for a Martian rover in a picture taken from a Martian helicopter.  Ingenuity took a picture on its eleventh flight that would be a worthy addition to any interplanetary search game – in this image, the goal is to find Perseverance.  

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“You Wouldn’t Believe What I Just Saw:” Ingenuity Helicopter Flies Successfully on Mars

NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter captured this shot as it hovered over the Martian surface on April 19, 2021, during the first instance of powered, controlled flight on another planet. It used its navigation camera, which autonomously tracks the ground during flight. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA pulled off a Wright Brothers moment on Mars early today by successfully flying the tiny Ingenuity helicopter for approximately 40 seconds.

“We can now say that human beings have flown a rotorcraft on another planet,” said MiMi Aung, Ingenuity’s lead engineer, speaking to her colleagues gathered at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California to execute and monitor the flight.

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Perseverance Went Into Safe Mode Shortly After Launch, But it’s Fine

Artist's impression of the Perseverance rover on Mars. Credit: NASA-JPL

On Thursday, July 30th, NASA launched the most sophisticated Mars rover ever built atop a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.This mission includes the Perseverance rover (Curiosity‘s sister vehicle) and the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter, both of which are being flown on a seven-month journey by the Mars 2020 spacecraft.

In a minor hiccup, the Mars 2020 spacecraft entered safe mode a few hours after launch, apparently due to a temperature anomaly. This was the conclusion reached by mission controllers after receiving telemetry data on the spacecraft via the NASA Deep Space Network. Luckily, the spacecraft is working nominally and is on its way toward Mars to join in the search for evidence of past (and present) life!

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