This story is part of Welcome to Mars, our series exploring the red planet.
NASA’s Perseverance rover isn’t alone in the Jezero Crater on Mars. Its overachieving companion, the Ingenuity helicopter, is still taking to the air. Percy’s an avid photographer, but it hasn’t taken a lot of photos of elusive Ingenuity. There’s a new snapshot of the chopper out, but it will take all your image-searching skills to find it in the Martian landscape.
The image comes from one of the rover’s mast-mounted cameras on Jan. 8, just days after the rotorcraft completed its 38th flight. The view shows a wide, rocky expanse of Jezero along with some noticeable wheel tracks left behind by the rover. Undulating sand dunes appear in the distance.
Ingenuity’s latest aerial escapade carried it 363 feet (110 meters) across Mars for a repositioning flight. The helicopter team works to keep it reasonably close to Percy so the two can stay in communication.
At first, you might doubt Ingenuity is really in the rover image. Keep in mind the rotorcraft’s main body is about the size of a box of tissues. Expand the view for a better chance at finding Ingenuity:
Still looking? Here’s another hint. NASA’s map of the rover and helicopter’s current locations gives a good top-down look at the Martian terrain. Judging by the satellite view, you can narrow down where Ingenuity appears in the photo.
Ingenuity’s a history maker that represents the first powered, controlled flight on another planet. It first took to the Martian air in April 2021 and has long outlived its expected lifespan. NASA wasn’t sure if it would even fly once, but now it’s racked up dozens of flights.
Still looking? Here you go:
If you blow up the image and crank the contrast, you can make out Ingenuity’s angled legs and boxy body.
I browse Percy’s Mars images almost every day, but I didn’t notice the helicopter until Twitter user DejaSu pointed it out. “Ingenuity in the closest/best view we’ve seen in quite a long time, safely at the Flight 38 landing zone on the side of a shallow sand ripple, ~280m NNE,” DejaSu tweeted.
For extra fun, you can try out DejaSu’s cross-eyed 3D image by looking at the two images and then crossing your eyes to make a 3D version seem to pop out. I can get it to work with some eyeball-straining effort.
NASA acknowledged Percy and Ingenuity’s long-distance robo-mance. “The Mars helicopter and I are closer together than we’ve been in a while, and guess who I spotted resting on a dune between flights,” the Perseverance team tweeted on Wednesday.
Mars is full of natural wonders, from a rock that looks like a cat to a cliff that looks like a face. But some of the most stunning objects are the ones humanity sent there. Like a helicopter. On Mars.