The incredible photos came first, followed by the recording. NASA is now sharing audio of its small helicopter humming through the Martian air.
NASA‘s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California released the first audio Friday, just before Ingenuity‘s fifth test flight, a short outbound trip to a new airfield.
The low hum produced by the helicopter’s blades spinning at more than 2,500 rpm was barely audible during the fourth flight a week earlier.
It sounded almost exactly like a distant, silent mosquito or other flying insect.
That was because the 1.8-kilogram helicopter was more than 80 meters from the Perseverance rover’s microphone. In addition, the rumbling gusts of wind masked the sound of the helicopter.
The scientists separated and magnified the sound of the whirring blades to make it more audible.
On Feb. 18, Ingenuity – the first powered aircraft to land on another planet – touched down on Mars and clung to Perseverance’s belly.
It completed its maiden flight on April 19. NASA named the launch and landing site Wright Brothers Field in honor of Wilbur and Orrville Wright, the brothers who flew the world’s first airplane in 1903.
Aboard the Ingenuity is a postage stamp-sized piece of the Wright Flyer’s original wing fabric.
The $85 million ($108 million) technology demonstration mission was supposed to be completed a few days ago, but NASA extended it by at least a month to gain more flight time.
During the 108-second test flight Friday afternoon, the helicopter flew south in the same direction as the rover.
Flying over the new airfield, the helicopter climbed to twice the height – 10 meters – took photos and then landed. The two airfields are 129 meters apart.
Now that the helicopter’s first phase is complete, the rover can begin searching for rocks that may contain evidence of microscopic life in the distant past.
Core samples will be collected and returned to Earth in the future.