The incredible photos came first, followed by the video. NASA has released audio of its small helicopter humming through the thin Martian atmosphere. The first-ever audio from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California was released on Friday, just before Ingenuity was scheduled to take off on its fifth test flight.
The helicopter blades’ low hum, which rotate at over 2,500 revolutions per minute, is scarcely audible. It almost sounds like a low-pitched mosquito or other flying insect from a long distance. That’s because the Perseverance rover’s microphone was more than 260 feet (80 meters) away from the 4-pound (1.8-kilogram) helicopter. The sound of the chopper was also muffled by Martian wind gusts.
The sound of the whirring blades was separated and magnified by scientists, making it easier to hear. On April 30, the sound was captured during the helicopter’s fourth test flight. On February 18, Ingenuity, the first powered aircraft to fly on another planet, landed on Mars, clinging to Perseverance’s belly. The takeoff and landing area was called Wright Brothers Field in honor of Wilbur and Orrville Wright, who made the world’s first airplane flights in 1903. Ingenuity has a piece of wing fabric from the original Wright Flyer that is the size of a postage stamp.
The $85 million technology demonstration was scheduled to end a few days ago, but NASA decided to prolong it by at least a month to allow for more flying time. The test flight on Friday afternoon aimed for twice the altitude — as high as 33 feet (10 meters). The helicopter was already on its way to a new landing site.
The rover can now begin looking for rocks that might contain signs of past microscopic life now that the helicopter’s first step is complete. Core samples will be obtained and returned to Earth in the future.