See Ingenuity hovering over the surface of Mars as captured by Perseverance

A new video from NASA shows the plucky little Mars helicopter Ingenuity in action, as captured by the Perseverance rover. The Perseverance rover used its Mastcam-Z camera to capture the helicopter taking off, hovering, moving around, and landing again in a sequence NASA described as “performing to near-perfection.”

The video was taken during the helicopter’s 13th flight on September 4, and it is the most detailed footage captured so far of Ingenuity in the air. The thirteenth flight was particularly challenging as it involved the helicopter passing over a range of terrain types in the Séítah region and moving around an outcrop to photograph it from various different angles from an altitude of around 26 feet (8 meters).

“We took off from the crater floor and flew over an elevated ridgeline before dipping into Séítah,” said Ingenuity Chief Pilot Håvard Grip of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in a statement. “Since the helicopter’s navigation filter prefers flat terrain, we programmed in a waypoint near the ridgeline, where the helicopter slows down and hovers for a moment. Our flight simulations indicated that this little ‘breather’ would help the helicopter keep track of its heading in spite of the significant terrain variations. It does the same on the way back. It’s awesome to actually get to see this occur, and it reinforces the accuracy of our modeling and our understanding of how to best operate Ingenuity.”

Perseverance’s Mastcam-Z instrument contains two cameras and was able to capture the footage of Ingenuity in action. One camera captured the entire flight of the helicopter from a wide angle, while the other captured close-up footage of the take off and landing process.

“The value of Mastcam-Z really shines through with these video clips,” said Justin Maki, deputy principal investigator for the Mastcam-Z instrument. “Even at 300 meters [328 yards] away, we get a magnificent closeup of takeoff and landing through Mastcam-Z’s ‘right eye.’ And while the helicopter is little more than a speck in the wide view taken through the ‘left eye,’ it gives viewers a good feel for the size of the environment that Ingenuity is exploring.”

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