Watch Mars Helicopter Imagination in NASA’s Bold Video Record-Breaking Flight
NASA has unveiled incredible new footage of its helicopter ingenuity during a record flight over the Red Planet last month.
The Mars Helicopter Imagination video, taken on April 8 but released on May 27, shows the small red Planet helicopter as it traveled 2,310 feet (704 meters) at a speed of 12 mph (19 kph). The sand of the red planet is spinning down.
“For our record-breaking flight, the imaginative downward-looking navigation camera gave us a breathtaking insight into how it would feel,” Teddy Tzanetos, head of the imaginative team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, said Friday (May 27).
The footage is of the 25th flight of imagination, when it flew faster and faster than ever before, with a maximum height of 33 feet (10 m), approximately the equivalent height of a three-story house.
Ingenuity sends its data to the Perseverance Rover, which transmits the information via radio to the Mars Orbiter. The data is then transmitted from Mars to NASA’s Deep Space Network, a radio dish on Earth.
Since video is larger than pictures, sending content via interplanetary networks takes a while and must come first on operational data missions, which can lead to some delays in receiving footage.
The nearly 30-second video clip starts within a second of the flight, JPL said. Helicopter shows a helicopter heading southwest to reach maximum speed in the next three seconds.
“The rotorcraft first flies over a group of sand waves, then, halfway through the video, through several rocky areas,” JPL said. “Finally, a relatively flat and featureless terrain appears below, which provides a good landing spot.”
A total of 161.3 seconds of flight time was increased five times in the footage, JPL added. When the helicopter is about three feet (1 m) away from the surface, the navigation camera is turned off before landing so that no dust can interfere with the navigation system.
Tact is currently recovering from a breakdown of communications caused by dust issues, but should be ready soon to attempt a 29th trip to the surface, JPL added.
“Now that Rotorcraft has reconnected and is getting enough energy from its solar array to charge its six lithium-ion batteries, the team is looking forward to its next flight to Mars,” JPL said of the ingenuity.
The small helicopter has almost quadrupled its initial five-flight manifesto, and is in an extended mission as it accompanies the Perseverance Life-Seeking Rover. On 18 February 2021 the rover and helicopter landed together in the Jezero Crater.