NASA has just unveiled incredible new footage of its helicopter Ingenuity on a record-breaking flight on the Red Planet last month.
The Mars helicopter Ingenuity video, which was taken April 8 but released May 27, shows the tiny Red Planet chopper as it flew across a distance of 2,310 feet (704 meters) at a speed of 12 mph (19 kph), with a view of Red Planet sands whirring below.
“For our record-breaking flight, Ingenuity’s downward-looking navigation camera provided us with a breathtaking sense of what it would feel like,” Ingenuity team lead Teddy Tzanetos, of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, stated (opens in new tab) Friday (May 27).
The footage dates back to Ingenuity’s 25th flight, when it flew faster and further than ever before with a maximum altitude of 33 feet (10 meters), roughly the equivalent height of a three-story house.
Related: 1 year later, Ingenuity helicopter still going strong on Mars
Ingenuity sends its data to the Perseverance rover, which hands off the information via radio to a passing Mars orbiter. Data is then transmitted from Mars to NASA’s Deep Space Network of radio dishes on Earth.
Since videos are larger than images, it takes a while to send stuff via interplanetary networks, and operational data must come first on missions, that likely accounts for some of the delay in receiving the footage.
The nearly 30-second video clip starts about a second into the flight, JPL said. It shows the helicopter moving southwest to hit its maximum speed in the following three seconds.
“The rotorcraft first flies over a group of sand ripples then, about halfway through the video, several rock fields,” JPL said. “Finally, relatively flat and featureless terrain appears below, providing a good landing spot.”
The total flight time of 161.3 seconds was sped up five times in the footage, JPL added. The navigation camera also turned off before landing as it is required to, to avoid any dust interfering with the navigation system when the helicopter is about three feet (1 meter) from the surface.
Ingenuity is currently recovering from a communications glitch induced by dust issues, but should be ready soon to attempt a 29th excursion above the surface, JPL added.
“Now that the rotorcraft is back in contact and getting adequate energy from its solar array to charge its six lithium-ion batteries, the team is looking forward to its next flight on Mars,” JPL stated of Ingenuity.
The little helicopter has increased its initial five-flight manifest by almost sixfold and is well into an extended mission as it accompanies the Perseverance life-seeking rover. Rover and helicopter landed together in Jezero Crater on Feb. 18, 2021.