A beautiful new photo mosaic shows NASA’s Mars Endurance Rover and Ingenuity helicopters like you’ve never seen them before.
Perseverance keeps an eye on the little helicopter as a doting parent in the picture, which citizen researcher Seán Doran sewed together of 62 pictures taken on Tuesday (April 6) of the car size.
It took a few hours to produce the mosaic that Doran posted today via his Twitter account, @_TheSeaning. He said he put the composite images through a “deflection, repair and upscaling process” before combining them.
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“Then there is a cumbersome task of correcting exposure differences between the images. Then another image processing passes to arrive at a final look,” Doran told Space.com via email.
NASA also shared a similar view today from Perseverance, which it billed as a “selfie” showing an animated view of the rover looking at Ingenuity, then at its arm-mounted camera. This mosaic was also constructed using 62 images, agency officials said.
“NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover took a selfie with the Ingenuity helicopter, seen here about 13 meters (4 meters) away in this image from April 6, 2021, the 46th of March, or Sun, of the mission,” officials with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory , overseeing the endurance mission, wrote in a photo description.
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The two mosaics capture the beginning of a historic moment in planetary exploration. Mission team members are preparing ingenuity for its first test flight, which could take place as soon as Sunday (April 11).
This sortie – the first ever-powered flight with a robot in an alien world’s sky – will be followed by a handful of others over a month-long campaign aimed at showing that air exploration is possible on Mars.
If ingenuity succeeds, future Red Planet missions can often include helicopters, who could serve as scouts for rovers and collect data on their own, NASA officials have said.
Ingenuity does not collect any data as 4-lb. (1.8 kg) rotor jets carry no scientific instruments. But it will document its flights with a high-resolution camera. And endurance will also look on from a safe distance away. There is even a chance that the rover could record sound from Ingenuity’s flights using its two built-in microphones, NASA officials have said.
“Focusing on the connection between Percy and Ginny was an obvious choice for this composition,” Doran wrote in her email. “It’s very exciting to see new photos from another planet, but this one is very special and I expect the technology demo to be a huge success.”
When Ingenuity’s work is complete, Perseverance begins to seriously focus on its own scientific mission. The six-wheeled robot will hunt for signs of ancient Mars life and collect and cache dozens of samples for future return to Earth.
This work and Ingenuity’s flights take place on the floor of the 28-kilometer (45-kilometer) Jezero Crater, where endurance and the helicopter landed together on 18 February. Pictures taken by Mars orbiters show that Jezero hosted a large lake and a river delta billions of years ago.
You can find more of Doran’s image processing work at his Twitter account and on his YouTube channel.
Mike Wall is the author of “Out there“(Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.