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Watch NASA video showing recent Mars helicopter flight in 3D

NASA’s Mars helicopter has been creating lots of headlines over the last month after becoming the first aircraft to perform controlled, powered flight on another planet.

The space agency has released videos showing Ingenuity’s five flights to date, but all of them have been in boring old 2D.

On Wednesday, however, it released a 3D version of Ingenuity’s third flight, which makes you feel as if you’re really there. Well, sort of.

All you need to do is grab that pair of 3D glasses languishing at the back of the closet — or make your own — stick them on, and fire up the video at the top of this page.

It’s fair to say that you will have probably seen far more stimulating 3D movies over the years, but it’s still fun to get a new, more realistic perspective on these groundbreaking flights taking place hundreds of millions of miles from Earth.

The video was shot by Perseverance, the ground-based rover that arrived on the red planet with Ingenuity in April 2021. Perseverance used its dual-camera Mastcam-Z imager to record Ingenuity’s flight from slightly different perspectives, which allowed imaging scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California to create the 3D video.

The flight took place on April 25 and saw the 4-pound, 19-inch-tall aircraft climb to a height of 5 meters before buzzing 50 meters across the Martian surface, hitting a top speed of 2 meters per second, or 4.5 mph. The entire flight lasted 50 seconds.

On subsequent flights, Ingenuity reached a record altitude of 10 meters and flew 266 meters in 117 seconds, with the machine using its onboard cameras to capture images of the landscape. More challenging flights are expected to take place in the coming weeks.

With NASA’s technology demonstration having proved that an aircraft can comfortably handle Mars’ extremely thin atmosphere and bitterly cold nights, NASA is now turning its attention to developing more advanced helicopters to assist ground-based rovers during future missions to the red planet. The next-generation flying machine could be used to gather imagery of the ground to enable more efficient rover movement and also to collect data from areas of rough terrain that ground rovers are unable to reach.

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