Stunning new movies present NASA’s Mars helicopter Ingenuity hovering by the Red Planet skies like by no means earlier than.
Ingenuity carried out its thirteenth Martian flight on Sept. 4, cruising by the rugged “Séítah” area of the Red Planet’s Jezero Crater on a scouting mission for its robotic companion, NASA’s Perseverance rover.
During the 160-second flight, Ingenuity lined about 689 ft (210 meters) of horizontal distance, reached a most altitude of 26 ft (8 m) and carried out numerous difficult maneuvers. For instance, the rotorcraft snapped images from a number of angles of an intriguing rocky outcrop that the Perseverance staff might need to discover, Ingenuity staff members mentioned.
The rover was documenting all this aerial motion with its two-camera Mastcam-Z imaging system, and we simply obtained our first take a look at the dramatic footage, thanks to 2 brief movies put collectively by the Perseverance staff.
“The value of Mastcam-Z really shines through with these video clips,” Justin Maki, Mastcam-Z deputy principal investigator at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Southern California, said in a statement.
“Even at 300 meters [1,000 feet] away, we get a magnificent closeup of takeoff and landing through Mastcam-Z’s ‘right eye,'” Maki mentioned. “And while the helicopter is little more than a speck in the wide view taken through the ‘left eye,’ it gives viewers a good feel for the size of the environment that Ingenuity is exploring.”
The movies, which JPL launched on Thursday (Nov. 18), reveal how difficult flight quantity 13 was and present how deftly Ingenuity handled the altering terrain beneath its blades, helicopter staff members mentioned.
“We took off from the crater floor and flew over an elevated ridgeline before dipping into Séítah,” mentioned Ingenuity chief pilot Håvard Grip, additionally of JPL, mentioned in the identical assertion. (JPL manages the missions of each Ingenuity and Perseverance.)
“Since the helicopter’s navigation filter prefers flat terrain, we programmed in a waypoint near the ridgeline, where the helicopter slows down and hovers for a moment,” Grip added. “Our flight simulations indicated that this little ‘breather’ would help the helicopter keep track of its heading in spite of the significant terrain variations. It does the same on the way back. It’s awesome to actually get to see this occur, and it reinforces the accuracy of our modeling and our understanding of how to best operate Ingenuity.”
Ingenuity and Perseverance landed collectively on Jezero’s ground in February. A couple of months later, the helicopter launched into a five-flight demonstration mission designed to indicate that aerial exploration is possible on the Red Planet. Ingenuity carried out so nicely throughout that preliminary phase that it obtained a mission extension and is now doing scouting work for Perseverance.
The car-sized rover’s primary duties are trying to find indicators of historical Mars life in Jezero, which hosted an enormous lake and a river delta within the historical previous, and amassing dozens of samples for future return to Earth. Perseverance lately collected and cached its third sample, a drilled rock core wealthy within the greenish mineral olivine.
Both Ingenuity and Perseverance stood down for a number of weeks in October throughout “solar conjunction,” when the sun got here between Earth and Mars. Our star can corrupt communications despatched between the 2 planets on this configuration, so NASA stops commanding its Mars robots throughout conjunction.
Ingenuity performed two extra flights after the Sept. 4 jaunt, one on Oct. 24 and one other on Nov. 6. The helicopter staff is gearing up for sortie quantity 16, which may happen as early as Saturday (Nov. 20).
Mike Wall is the writer of “Out There” (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a e-book concerning the seek for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or on Facebook.