NASA Helicopter Captures Gorgeous Sunset on Mars

Martian sunset
NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter took the image on a Martian sunset on February 22, 2023.

NASA’s Mars helicopter drone has beamed back a rare pretty picture of a sunset on the Red Planet

On February 22 and during its 45th flight on Mars, NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter traveled a third of a mile (0.5 kilometers) and captured the sun setting.

The sunset photo was serendipitous because the high-resolution color camera attached to the helicopter’s fuselage is pointed approximately 22 degrees below the horizon toward the ground where most of its targets are.

However, the aircraft can be blown around during flight and will occasionally capture a photo of the sky accidentally. In this case, there was a Martian sunset happening.

The photo was taken on Ingenuity’s 714th Martian day (or sol) and the Sun that it caught is illuminating the alien landscape of the Jezero Crater. Its hilly landscape is not dissimilar to Earth making it endlessly fascinating.

The helicopter drone traveled over 1,600 feet from Airfield Zeta to Airfield Eta, a journey that lasted 145 seconds which saw the aircraft rise to an altitude of 40 feet while traveling at a maximum ground speed of 13 miles per hour.

“Onward and upward, Ingenuity!” NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory writes on Twitter. “The #MarsHelicopter will attempt Flight 47 no earlier than March 9. It is expected to fly 1,411 feet (430 meters) southwest to reposition itself and image science targets along the way.”

What is the Mars Ingenuity Helicopter?

Ingenuity typically studies rocks on Mars or occasionally will investigate the wreckage of the landing sites for explorative probes like Perseverance.

It traveled to Mars while attached to the belly of the Perseverance rover after being launched from Cape Canaveral on July 30, 2020.

Ingenuity represents a major milestone: the first ever powered, controlled flight in any world beyond Earth.

Yesterday, NASA announced that the helicopter drone has completed its 47th flight on Mars traveling 1,443 feet (440 meters) across the planet’s surface for 146 seconds at an altitude of 40 feet (12 meters).

Image credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech.