Update for April 10: NASA has delayed the first flight of the Ingenuity helicopter on Mars until no earlier than Wednesday (April 14) after a final preflight test ended early.
A gorgeous new photo mosaic shows NASA's Mars Perseverance rover and Ingenuity helicopter as you've never seen them before.
Perseverance watches over the little chopper like a doting parent in the image, which citizen scientist Seán Doran stitched together from 62 photos taken on Tuesday (April 6) by the car-sized rover.
It took a few hours to make the mosaic, which Doran posted today via his Twitter account, @_TheSeaning. He said he put the constituent images through a "de-noise, repair and upscale process" prior to combining them.
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"Then there is a laborious task of correcting exposure differences between images. Then another image-processing pass 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. That 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 feet (4 meters) away in this image from April 6, 2021, the 46th Martian day, or sol, of the mission," officials with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which oversees the Perseverance mission, wrote in an image description (opens in new tab).
The two mosaics capture the leadup to a historic moment in planetary exploration. Mission team members are prepping Ingenuity for its first test flight, which could take place as soon as Sunday (April 11).
That sortie — the first-ever powered flight by a robot in the skies of an alien world — will be followed by a handful of others over a month-long campaign that aims to show that aerial exploration is feasible on Mars.
If Ingenuity is successful, future Red Planet missions may commonly include helicopters, which could serve as scouts for rovers and gather data on their own, NASA officials have said.
Ingenuity won't gather any data, since the 4-lb. (1.8 kilograms) rotorcraft doesn't carry any scientific instruments. But it will document its flights with a high-resolution camera. And Perseverance will be watching as well, from a safe distance away. There's even a chance that the rover could record audio of Ingenuity's flights using its two onboard microphones, NASA officials have said.
"Focusing on the connection between Percy and Ginny was an obvious choice for this composition," Doran wrote in his email. "It is very exciting to see any new photos from another planet, but this one is very special, and I expect the technology demo to be a great success."
After Ingenuity's work is done, Perseverance will begin focusing in earnest on its own science 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, will take place on the floor of the 28-mile-wide (45 kilometers) Jezero Crater, where Perseverance and the helicopter landed together on Feb. 18. Imagery captured by Mars orbiters shows that Jezero hosted a big lake and a river delta billions of years ago.
Mike Wall is the author of "Out There (opens in new tab)" (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.