Mars is referred to as the "Red Planet" because of the reddish-orange color of the planet's sandscape. That comes into sharp focus in the first color photo taken by the Mars Ingenuity helicopter.
Mars Colored Photo
The colored photo was taken about 17 feet above the ground, so people can clearly see the red-orange Martian surface.
At the bottom of the image, the shadow of Ingenuity can be seen, with two of its legs visibly jutting out from the rectangular body, as seen on Mashable.
Those patterns in the ground that look like tracks are really tracks left by the Perseverance rover, the remote-operated research vehicle that carried Ingenuity safely to Mars.
As soon as it deposited the flying robot, the Perseverance headed off to a new location, first to monitor the helicopter for a month, and then will proceed with its other duties.
Not only is this the first color photo the Mars Ingenuity sent back home, it is also the first color image of Mars' surface taken by an aerial vehicle while it was aloft, according to Space.com.
The whole purpose of Ingenuity's presence on Mars is to test NASA's ability to operate an aerial vehicle in the Mars' atmosphere.
NASA is currently investigating the planet with the help of drones like Perseverance and Ingenuity, but at some point the plan is to get humans out there too, along with more elaborate vehicles.
NASA is being very careful with aerodynamics due to the uniqueness of the Martian atmosphere, especially since getting Mars is not a simple process. One wrong move could set back the research for a year, or maybe even more.
This is the reason why NASA is using the vehicles to conduct other tests, such as exploring the viability of drawing oxygen out of the Martian atmosphere. Human visitors will need a ready supply of breathable air if they are going to spend an appreciable amount of time checking out the planet, so checking to see if and how that is possible now is very important.
NASA's Mars Research
The picture was snapped during Ingenuity's second flight, which happened on Apr. 22. Its inaugural flight went off without a hitch just a few days earlier, on Apr. 19.
The idea with these tests is to keep ramping things up, so people can expect a bigger showing this time around. For the first flight, Ingenuity spend around 40 seconds off the ground, hovering in place at a height of roughly 10 feet.
Ingenuity's second test went higher, close to 17 feet, and saw the helicopter move around six and half feet to the east, and then went back. It spent almost a minute in the air and made three turns during that time.
NASA does not expect the third Ingenuity flight to be any higher, but they expect it to move faster, going from 1 mile-per-hour to 4.5 miles-per-hour, and travel an longer distance.
The plan is for Ingenuity to head a bit more than 160 feet to the north then return to its starting point, named Wright Brothers Field, and land. The total flight time will come close to a minute and a half.
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Written by Sophie Webster