Incredible Aerial Photo of Mars Shows Blue Sky and Perseverance Rover

NASA Ingenuity Photo of Perseverance
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

During its 51st flight, NASA’s Mars Ingenuity helicopter snapped a striking shot of Mars, showing an apparent blue sky — a far cry from the typical dusty, dull sky seen from Mars’ surface — and captured a special guest in the frame, the Mars Perseverance rover.

During flight 51, which occurred on sol 772 (a solar day on Mars) on April 22, 2023, Ingenuity traveled 188 meters (617 feet) over 136.9 seconds. The helicopter’s longest flights are all shy of three minutes. During its latest flight, Ingenuity reached a height of 12 meters (40 feet), six meters (about 20 feet) shy of its highest recorded altitude. A detailed flight log of all of Ingenuity’s activities is available on NASA’s website.

The new image caught PetaPixel’s attention because the image looks a bit less alien than many photos captured on Mars; the red planet looks like some of Earth’s most desolate, arid locales. It’s also neat to see the Perseverance rover from such a dramatic angle.

NASA Ingenuity Photo of Perseverance
Perseverance is highlighted in green. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
NASA Ingenuity Photo of Perseverance
Complete with upscaling artifacts, here’s a close-up of Perseverance.

NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter and Perseverance rover have been taking turns capturing photos of each other while they explore Mars. As notes, NASA shared a photo of Ingenuity that Perseverance captured last week.

In the photo, quite a bit of dust is visible on the helicopter’s rotors. However, the aerial vehicle has done a great job and exceeded expectations, despite a near-fatal issue with its navigations system early in its mission.

Ingenuity and Perseverance act as a team as part of NASA’s Mars 2020 mission. During their nearly 800 days on Mars, the robotic helicopter and rover have performed extensive exploration. The mission is trying to learn more about the history of Mars, the possibility of past life on the planet, and the search for biosignatures.

Ingenuity has two onboard cameras, one for black-and-white imaging and another for color photos, like the one NASA shared. The image has been heavily edited and looks significantly different than the RAW image straight from Ingenuity. NASA has published nearly 450,000 RAW images from its Mars 2020 mission on a dedicated website.

NASA Ingenuity Photo of Perseverance
RAW image from Perseverance. | Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

During the mission, Perseverance has been collecting soil samples, which NASA aims to deliver to Earth in 2033. NASA plans to launch the required orbiter in 2027 and an accompanying Mars lander in 2028. Not making the trip to Earth is Perseverance’s “pet rock” that has been lodged in the rover’s front left wheel for more than half its mission. Live Science reports that the “hitchhiking” rock finally fell off after 427 sols.

Update: An earlier version of this article mistakenly claimed that the mission to deliver Martian soil samples to Earth would commence this year. Two required launches for that mission will occur in 2027 and 2028, with sample return planned in 2033.