Mars Helicopter Is on the Martian Surface & Perseverance Took Photos

Perseverance has sent back images of Ingenuity's touchdown.

Ingenuity Helicopter on Mars
Image courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech

On its journey of 293 million miles, it has taken the Ingenuity helicopter weeks to travel the last four inches down to the Martian surface. 

Stowed safely on the underside of the Perseverance rover, Ingenuity has made a long trek from Earth to Mars. Perseverance touched down in February and has already been sending back incredible images for weeks. Ingenuity, the four-pound helicopter that tagged along for the ride, however, has not yet begun its history-making test flights on the red planet. Its time is coming, though.

Ingenuity needed Perseverance to find a flat place on the planet's surface to drop the helicopter. That has now happened. NASA shared images from Perseverance of Ingenuity sitting safely on the Martian surface on April 3. Then, after the above photo was taken, the helicopter survived its first night alone on the planet, a major milestone on the path toward flight.

The next step will be the first of its test flights. It'll be a historic moment when the helicopter attempts the first powered flight on a planet other than Earth. Its mission is to test its abilities in hopes that a helicopter like this could be used on future missions, opening up the possibilities of planetary exploration. It would be able to go places and do science that a ground-based rover simply can't do.

The first flight will be brief but important. NASA says Ingenuity will take off, hover a few feet from the ground for about 20 to 30 seconds and then land. "After that," NASA writes on the site dedicated to the helicopter, "the team will attempt additional experimental flights of incrementally farther distance and greater altitude. After the helicopter completes its technology demonstration, Perseverance will continue its scientific mission."

The exact date for the first flight is not yet set, but Ingenuity will make its first flight attempt this month. The flight is scheduled for no earlier than April 11. 

Ready to go stargazing?

Here are all the best stargazing events that you can get out and see this month or you could stay in a stream the northern lights from home. If you're just getting started, check out our guide to astronomy for beginners, the best meteor showers of 2021, or easy stargazing road trips from big US cities

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Dustin Nelson is a Senior Staff Writer at Thrillist. Follow Dustin Nelson on Twitter.