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NASA Ingenuity helicopter zooms low across Mars in lucky flight 13

The overachieving chopper now has a baker's dozen flights under its rotors.

NASA's Ingenuity Mars helicopter spotted its own shadow during its 13th flight on the red planet.

NASA/JPL
This story is part of Welcome to Mars, our series exploring the red planet.

The Mars Ingenuity helicopter is living out its team's wildest dreams. The rotorcraft completed its 13th flight on Saturday as it continues to act as an aerial scout for its companion, the NASA Perseverance rover. 

The helicopter scoped out what NASA calls "the geologically intriguing South Seitah region," an area of interest for the rover, which just triumphantly collected its first Martian rock sample. Ingenuity had its eyes on one particular ridgeline, and it flew at a lower altitude to collect some good pictures.

For flight 13, the rotorcraft zoomed along at an altitude of 26 feet (8 meters), compared to 33 feet (10 meters) for its previous flight 12. The flight path was designed to capture images that would overlap with previous snaps to give a more complete view of the area.   

The Perseverance rover caught sights of its chopper buddy on Sept. 4, 2021.

NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU

After the mission arrived on Mars in February, NASA focused a lot of energy on the chopper and its efforts to prove that powered, controlled flight was possible on another planet. Ingenuity's work has since shifted to one of support as the rover seeks out signs of ancient microbial life in the dry lakebed of Jezero Crater.

Ingenuity's images are helping the Perseverance team plan the rover's explorations, but sometimes it also gets to pose for snapshots. Perseverance managed to capture a sweet photo of Ingenuity sitting in the distance on Saturday. The helicopter nearly blends into the rocky landscape. 

With one sample under its belt, the rover will be on the lookout for more intriguing rocks that might be worth sending back to Earth one day. With Ingenuity's eyes in the air, these two robotic explorers make quite a team.