See the surface of Mars in 3D thanks to the Ingenuity helicopter

On its 13th flight, the Ingenuity helicopter skimmed low over the surface of Mars, imaging one particular area of rock. Unlike previous flights, which had covered multiple targets over larger areas, this flight was to investigate one target in-depth — and now NASA has released a 3D image from that flight, showing a portion of the South Seítah region of the Jezero Crater.

A 3D view of a rock mound called “Faillefeu” created from data collected by NASA's Ingenuity Mars Helicopter.
This 3D view of a rock mound called “Faillefeu” was created from data collected by NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter during its 13th flight at Mars on Sept. 4, 2021. NASA/JPL-Caltech

“Best viewed with red-blue glasses, this stereo, or 3D, view (also called an anaglyph) was created by combining data from two images taken 16 feet (5 meters) apart by the color camera aboard Ingenuity,” NASA writes. Though if you don’t have 3D glasses, not to worry, as there is a 2D version of the image available as well.

An image of an area the Mars Perseverance rover team calls “Faillefeu” was captured by NASA's Ingenuity Mars Helicopter during its 13th flight on Mars on Sept. 4, 2021.
This image of an area the Mars Perseverance rover team calls “Faillefeu” was captured by NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter during its 13th flight over Mars on Sept. 4, 2021. NASA/JPL-Caltech

Unlike previous images captured by the helicopter, which have largely been from a higher altitude, this image was captured just 8 meters (26 feet) from the surface. That means it shows the surface features in greater detail, including the main target: An area nicknamed Faillefeu after a medieval abbey in the French Alps.

“About 33 feet (10 meters) wide, the mound is visible just north of the center of the image, with some large rocks casting shadows,” NASA wrote. “Stretching across the top of the image is a portion of ‘Artuby,’ a ridgeline more than half a mile (900 meters) wide. At the bottom of the image, and running vertically up into the middle, are a few of the many sand ripples that populate South Seítah.”

Since it arrived on Mars with its companion Perseverance rover, the Ingenuity helicopter has been performing increasingly complicated flights. Its first mission phase was intended as a technology demonstration, meaning it was just a test to see if a helicopter could fly in the thin Martian atmosphere, but has proved such a success it has moved onto a new phase of operations in which it investigates how helicopters can support future rovers.

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