NASA’s Perseverance rover took a selfie on the Martian surface, capturing itself and the Ingenuity helicopter before the first flight attempt on an alien planet.
The image released by NASA was assembled from dozens of individual snapshots of the rover’s WATSON camera (wide-angle topographic sensor for operations and engineering).
It follows the ingenuity of the mini-helicopter surviving his first night alone on the detached Martian surface of the Perseverance rover, which NASA hailed as a “major milestone”.
“The laws of physics can say that it is almost impossible to fly on Mars, but piloting a heavier-than-air vehicle on the Red Planet is much more difficult than that,” NASA joked.
Ingenuity will undergo a handful of tests over the next few days and if all systems are working as they should, the rotorcraft will attempt the first flight no earlier than April 11.
It carries as a memento in homage to the pioneers of the flight of the Earth, a piece of fabric that covered one of the wings of the Wright brothers’ plane.
Its launch will also attempt to coincide with the 60th anniversary of the flight of the first human in space, Yuri Gagarin, on April 12, 1961.
Just hours after the flight, Perseverance will link Ingenuity’s first set of engineering data, and “eventually” images and videos from its zoomable cameras, NASA says.
Using this data, the Ingenuity team will be able to determine whether the first Mars flight attempt was successful, and the results will be discussed at a press conference the same day.
The flight is a challenge because the Martian atmosphere is only 1% of the density of the atmosphere on Earth, which means that the craft can have difficulty reaching lift, although it is assisted by gravity. which is only a third of ours.
The small helicopter underwent a series of mission-simulating exercises at a test facility in California, including a high vibration environment to mimic how it will withstand under launch and landing conditions, and fluctuations in temperature extremes such as those encountered on Mars.
The goal is for the helicopter to hover 3 m (10 feet) above the surface for approximately 30 seconds before descending and landing.
The small, self-contained chopper has an on-board camera, but does not contain any scientific instruments. NASA aims to develop the drone as a prototype to see if it might be worth connecting science sensors to similar devices in the future.