NASAmost recent March rover used a camera on the end of its robotic arm to take this photo of itself with the Ingenuity helicopter nearby.
NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover took a selfie with the Ingenuity helicopter, seen here about 4 meters away in this image from April 6, 2021, the 46th Martian, or ground, day of the mission. Perseverance captured the image using a camera called WATSON (Wide Angle Topographic Sensor for Operations and Engineering), which is part of the SHERLOC (Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman and Luminescence for Organics and Chemicals) instrument ), located at the end of the rover’s robotic arm.
Perseverance’s selfie with Ingenuity was stitched together from 62 individual images taken while the rover stared at the helicopter, and then again while looking at the WATSON camera. Videos explaining how NASA’s Perseverance and Curiosity rovers take their selfies can be found here.
Once the team is ready to attempt the first flight, Perseverance will receive and forward to Ingenuity the final flight instructions from JPL mission controllers. Several factors will determine the precise time of flight, including modeling of local wind models informed by measurements taken by the Mars Environmental Dynamics Analyzer (MEDA) instrument onboard Perseverance. Ingenuity will spin its rotors at 2,537 rpm and, if all final self-checks look good, take off. After climbing at a speed of approximately 3 feet per second (1 meter per second), the helicopter will fly 10 feet (3 meters) above the surface for up to 30 seconds. Then ingenuity will descend and return to the Martian surface.
Several hours after the first flight, Perseverance will link Ingenuity’s first set of engineering data and possibly images and video from the rover’s navigation cameras and Mastcam-Z, a pair of zoomable cameras. From the data transmitted the first evening after the flight, the Ingenuity team expects to be able to determine whether their first attempt at the flight to Mars was successful. The results of the flight tests will be discussed by the Ingenuity team at a press conference the same day.
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory built and manages perseverance and ingenuity operations for the agency. Caltech in Pasadena, California manages JPL for NASA. WATSON was built by Malin Space Science Systems (MSSS) in San Diego and is jointly operated by MSSS and JPL.
The helicopter technology demonstration activity on Mars is supported by the Directorate of Scientific Missions of NASA, the Directorate of Aeronautical Research Missions and the Directorate of Space Technology Missions.
A key focus of Perseverance’s mission to Mars is astrobiology, including looking for signs of ancient microbial life. The rover will characterize the planet’s geology and past climate, pave the way for human exploration of the Red Planet, and be the first mission to collect and hide Martian rock and regolith (broken rocks and dust).
Subsequent NASA missions, in cooperation with ESA (European Space Agency), would send spacecraft to Mars to collect these sealed samples on the surface and return them to Earth for further analysis.
The Mars 2020 Perseverance mission is part of NASA’s Moon-to-Mars exploration approach, which includes Artemis missions to the Moon that will help prepare for human exploration of the Red Planet.