NASA’s Perseverance rover just snapped an up-close view of its Mars companion Ingenuity, revealing the robotic helicopter’s dusty blades.
Perseverance recently traveled within only 75 feet (23 meters) of Ingenuity, which flew to the Red Planet with the big rover. This is the first time in nearly two years that Perseverance has gotten this close to the helicopter, NASA officials wrote on Twitter.
Perseverance snapped some photos of Ingenuity during its close approach on Sunday (April 16), and NASA shared them on Twitter on Tuesday (April 18). The images show the helicopter’s rotors coated in Martian dust that was likely kicked up by the helicopter during takeoff, hovering and landing.
Related: 12 amazing photos from the Perseverance rover’s 1st year on Mars
Despite the dusty coating, “Ingenuity looks to be holding up well in the harsh Martian environment,” officials with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), which manages the missions of both Ingenuity and Perseverance, wrote in the Tuesday tweet.
Ingenuity is the first machine to achieve powered flight in the skies of an alien world — a lofty accomplishment, given that the thin Mars atmosphere makes it difficult to achieve enough lift. That’s why Ingenuity is equipped with enlarged, specially shaped blades that rotate about 10 times faster than what is needed to fly on Earth.
On April 13, the 4-pound (1.8 kilograms) helicopter completed its 50th flight on Mars, during which it traveled 1,057 feet (322.2 meters) in 145.7 seconds and achieved a new altitude record of 59 feet (18 m) above the Red Planet’s surface.
The Mars helicopter’s first flight took place on April 19, 2021, only two months after it landed in Jezero Crater. The helicopter has far exceeded its originally planned technology demonstration mission of up to five flights.
Ingenuity also serves as a scout for Perseverance, which is searching for evidence of past microbial life and collecting samples for future return to Earth. The helicopter’s test of powered flight on another world could aid in future sample return missions and the ongoing search for life on Mars.
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Elizabeth Howell is the co-author of “Why Am I Taller?” (ECW Press, 2022; with Canadian astronaut Dave Williams), a book about space medicine. Follow her on Twitter @howellspace. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.