The NASA Perseverance rover is currently conducting its scientific investigations on Mars. one of its most recent accomplishments was finally placing the Ingenuity helicopter onto the surface of Mars for the first time. Ingenuity had been stored away underneath Perseverance since months before the rover launched to the Red Planet.
Recently, Perseverance used the camera on its robotic arm to take a picture of itself with the Ingenuity helicopter nearby in the background. Ingenuity was about 13 feet away from Perseverance in the image, taken on April 6, 2021. That date was the 46th Martian sol for the mission.
The camera we can thank for the selfie is called WATSON or Wide Angle Topographic Sensor for Operations and eNgineering. WATSON is part of the SHERLOC instrument on the end of the robotic arm. The selfie wasn’t taken as a single image. Rather it was stitched together from 62 individual photos taken as Perseverance observed the helicopter.
Some images were also taken again while looking at the WATSON camera. Perseverance is on station near the Ingenuity helicopter to receive and relay final flight instructions from mission controllers for the aircraft’s first test flight. NASA notes that several factors will decide the exact time for the flight, including modeling local wind patterns.
The dual rotors that NASA hopes will push Ingenuity in the air spin at 2537 RPM. The helicopter will climb into the sky at about three feet per second and hover 10 feet above the surface for up to 30 seconds. Ingenuity will then lower itself safely back to the ground. Data about the flight, along with images and video, will be sent back to Earth several hours after the flight. A successful flight for Ingenuity could change the way Mars is explored in the future.