Skip to main content

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.

Editors' Recommendations

Trevor Mogg
Contributing Editor
Not so many moons ago, Trevor moved from one tea-loving island nation that drives on the left (Britain) to another (Japan)…
NASA’s Mars helicopter aces longest flight in almost a year
NASA's Ingenuity helicopter.

NASA’s Mars helicopter recently aced its 43rd flight, one that turned out to be its longest in almost a year.

During the February 11 flight, Ingenuity traveled 1,280 feet (390 meters) across the martian surface for 146 seconds, reaching a maximum altitude of 40 feet (12 meters) while reaching a top speed of 8.9 mph (4 meters per second). The flight was a repositioning mission in preparation for providing further assistance to NASA’s Perseverance rover as it continues to explore Jezero Crater.

Read more
Ingenuity helicopter helps researchers learn about dust on Mars
The Ingenuity helicopter is pictured on the surface of Mars.

One of the big challenges of Mars exploration is something very small: dust. Fine dust covers much of the martian surface, and high winds and low gravity mean the dust is easily whipped up off the surface, covering solar panels and gumming up components. The Ingenuity helicopter has had its own problems with dust on its solar panels, limiting the amount of power it could draw from the sun.

Now, researchers have used data from Ingenuity to understand more about how dust moves in the martian air, learning about the dynamics of dust, which could help future missions deal with this ongoing problem.

Read more
Mars helicopter Ingenuity marks 40 flights and is still going strong
Ingenuity sits on a slightly inclined surface with about 6-degree tilt at the center of the frame, just north of the southern ridge of “Séíitah” geologic unit. The Perseverance rover’s Mastcam-Z instrument took this image on Dec. 1, 2021, when the rotorcraft was about 970 feet (295 meters) away.

The Mars helicopter Ingenuity has made its third flight of the year, which also marks its 40th flight since it landed in the Jezero crater along with the Perseverance rover in February 2021. Despite being originally intended for just five flights and having to weather the Martian winter, the little helicopter is still going strong as it comes up to its second anniversary on the red planet.

On the helicopter's 40th flight, it traveled from an area named Airfield Z to Airfield Beta, on its way to join the Perseverance rover as it explores the Jezero river delta. It will help scout ahead for the rover, identifying safe routes for the rover to drive as it searches for evidence of ancient life that could have existed when water was present on the planet's surface billions of years ago.

Read more