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Spacecraft Spots NASA’s Tiny Ingenuity Mars Helicopter From Space

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has been circling Mars since 2006, showing us just how diverse the surface of our cold, red neighbor can be. Helped by its powerful HiRISE camera, the spacecraft continues to send back stunning images that continue to impress. The most recent ones reveal two dots nestled in the Jezero Crater: NASA’s Perseverance rover and its little buddy Ingenuity.
NASA orbiter spies on Ingenuity and Perseverance 7 photos
NASA orbiter spies on Ingenuity and PerseveranceNASA orbiter spies on Ingenuity and PerseveranceNASA orbiter spies on Ingenuity and PerseveranceThis annotated image depicts the multiple flights performed by IngenuityNASA Ingenuity helicopterNASA Perseverance rover
The spacecraft orbits Mars from an altitude that ranges from 155 to 196 miles (250 km to 316 km) above the surface. So, to capture a helicopter that weighs just four lbs (1.8 kg) and has rotors that measure just under four ft (1.2 meters) from tip to tip is an incredible feat.

That goes to show what the High-Resolution Imaging Experiment (HiRISE) can do. The camera has a telescopic lens that allows it to capture high-resolution images, allowing scientists to distinguish objects as small as a kitchen table.

The recent photos show Perseverance and Ingenuity in the Jezero crater. In the last few weeks, the helicopter has been flying across the Séítah region to get to the ancient river delta, an area that scientists believe might hold crucial clues about the Red Planet’s wet past.

Spotted by the orbiter from above, Ingenuity is located 656 ft (200 meters) from the car-sized rover, which can be seen sitting on the fractured bedrock known as the Máaz. This rock formation covers a big chunk of the Jezero crater.

They still have to travel several miles before they reach the deltaic deposit, which is thought to have formed billions of years ago from sediment transported by an ancient river. HiRISE is expected to capture the duo again on their journey to the north.

Once Ingenuity arrives at the ancient river delta, it will help Perseverance and work as an aerial scout. The helicopter will take photos of the terrain from above and communicate data to the Perseverance team. This way, the rover will be able to choose the best path to follow and which spots need to be investigated.

 

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