The Ingenuity helicopter may be struggling to cope with the dust and cold on Mars, but it’s still sending back invaluable data to Earth. Recently, NASA scientists put together images taken from its longest flight to date to create a stunning video, showing a helicopter’s-eye view of the Martian surface as it sped across it.
The video is of the helicopter’s 25th flight which took place on April 8. The long flight helped moved the helicopter out of the South Séítah region and toward the delta, where the Perseverance rover is heading to look for signs of ancient life. The helicopter needs to keep relatively close to the rover, so the Ingenuity team decided to perform a short flight 24 to reach a safe landing zone before moving on to their longest flight yet to keep up with the rover.
The video was created using images from Ingenuity’s black and white navigation camera, which the helicopter uses in its autonomous flying system. Ingenuity pilots, based at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, plan out where they want the helicopter to go and then relay commands to it. The helicopter then takes over and executes these commands.
“During a flight, onboard sensors – the navigation camera, an inertial measurement unit, and a laser range finder – provide real-time data to Ingenuity’s navigation processor and main flight computer, which guide the helicopter in flight,” NASA wrote in a post accompanying the video. “This enables Ingenuity to react to the landscape while carrying out its commands.”
An aerial view from Mars.
During #MarsHelicopter’s 25th flight, it flew 2,310 ft (704 m) at a speed of 12 mph (5.5 m/s), breaking its own distance and groundspeed records on another planet. Imagery recently downlinked shows Ingenuity’s point of view. https://t.co/NU5d6wGSdE pic.twitter.com/IqgkEmR04W
— NASA JPL (@NASAJPL) May 28, 2022
The camera begins recording images one second after the helicopter takes off, with it rising quickly into the thin martian air. Once the helicopter reaches its flying altitude of 33 feet (10 meters), it accelerates quickly to a top speed of 12 mph to cover terrain including sand ripples and small rocks below. It comes to a flat, featureless area which makes for a good safe landing spot then comes in to land after a total flight of 161.3 seconds. In total, the helicopter flew for a distance of 2,310 feet, with the video of the flight sped up to five times speed to show the helicopter in action.
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