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 says goodbye to Mars helicopter Ingenuity after an incredible 72 flights
NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter unlocked its rotor blades, allowing them to spin freely, on April 7, 2021, the 47th Martian day, or sol, of the mission.

It's a sad day for space fans, as the plucky little helicopter Ingenuity has finally come to the end of its mission on Mars. The helicopter will not be making anymore flights due to damage to one of its rotors that occurred during a recent landing, NASA said in an announcement on Thursday, January 25.

The mission was originally planned to make just five flights and to last 30 days, but has been successful beyond what anyone had imagined. The helicopter has made a total of 72 flights over the course of its three-year mission, which began when it was set down on the surface of Mars by the Perseverance rover. The rover arrived on Mars with the helicopter tucked up underneath its belly in February 2021, and Ingenuity sat on the surface for the first time in April 2021. It then made history by becoming the first rotorcraft to fly on another planet with its maiden flight.

Read more
NASA regains communications with Mars helicopter Ingenuity
The Ingenuity helicopter is pictured on the surface of Mars.

Just a few days after losing contact with the Mars helicopter Ingenuity, NASA announced that it has regained communications with the plucky little helicopter. In a post on X (formerly Twitter), NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which designed and operated the helicopter, announced that it is back in touch following an unexpected communications dropout.

The Ingenuity helicopter is pictured on the surface of Mars. NASA

Read more
NASA has lost communication with the Ingenuity Mars helicopter
NASA’s Ingenuity Mars helicopter is seen here in a close-up taken by Mastcam-Z, a pair of zoomable cameras aboard the Perseverance rover. This image was taken on April 5, the 45th Martian day, or sol, of the mission.

The Mars helicopter Ingenuity has had a remarkable lifespan and has proven to be a greater success than anyone imagined. Originally designed to perform just five flights over the surface of Mars, the helicopter has now performed more than 70. However, NASA has now announced that it has lost contact with the helicopter, though it's unclear how serious this problem is.

The helicopter was performing its 72nd flight, which was an adjustment and correction to a previous flight that was cut short. Flight 71 was intended to be a journey of 1,175 feet (358 meters), but when the helicopter made this flight earlier in the month, it traveled just a third of that. The problem was related to its downward-facing camera, which uses surface indications for autonomous navigation. The helicopter was traveling over a particularly featureless expanse of the surface, and the lack of landmarks appeared to cause a problem with its navigation, forcing the flight to end early.

Read more