NASA Perseverance Captures Challenging Mars Helicopter Flight – NASA Mars Exploration Program


Recently uploaded footage of a September flight allowed the rover’s imaging team to create a video of a rotorcraft working perfectly.

Video footage of NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover from Ingenuity Mars helicopter 13e the September 4 flight offers the most detailed look to date of the rotorcraft in action.

Ingenuity is currently preparing its 16e flight, which is due to take place no earlier than Saturday, November 20, but the 160.5-second flight 13 stands out as one of Ingenuity’s most complicated. It involved flying over varied terrain within the “Séítah” geological feature and taking images of an outcrop from multiple angles for the rover team. Acquired at an altitude of 26 feet (8 meters), the images complement those collected during Flight 12, providing valuable information to Perseverance scientists and rover drivers.

Captured by the rover’s dual-camera Mastcam-Z, a video clip from Flight 13 shows the majority of the flight profile of the 4-pound (1.8 kilogram) rotorcraft. The other provides a close-up of take-off and landing, which was acquired as part of a scientific observation intended to measure the dust plumes generated by the helicopter.

“The value of Mastcam-Z really shines through in these video clips,” said Justin Maki, associate principal investigator for the Mastcam-Z instrument at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. “Even at 300 meters [328 yards] in the distance we get a wonderful close-up of take-off and landing through Mastcam-Z’s “right eye”. And while the helicopter is little more than a point in the wide view taken through “the left eye,” it gives viewers a good idea of ​​the size of the environment that Ingenuity is exploring.

13th Flight of Ingenuity Mars Helicopter – Perseverance Wide Angle Video: Video footage from the Mastcam-Z instrument aboard NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover provides an overview of the agency’s 13th flight of the agency’s Ingenuity Mars helicopter, September 4, 2021. Credits: NASA / JPL -Caltech / ASU / MSSS. Download the video>

During take-off, Ingenuity projects a small plume of dust that the right camera, or “eye,” captures as it moves to the right of the helicopter during the ascent. After its initial climb to the maximum planned altitude of 26 feet (8 meters), the helicopter performs a small pirouette to line up its color camera for spotting. Next, Ingenuity tilts, allowing the thrust of the rotors to start moving it horizontally through thin Martian air before moving off the screen. The rotorcraft later returns and lands near where it took off. The team targeted another landing point – about 39 feet (12 meters) from takeoff – to avoid a ripple of sand it landed on at the end of Flight 12.

While Mastcam-Z’s left eye view shows less of the helicopter and more of Mars than the right, the wide angle gives a glimpse into the unique way the Ingenuity team programmed the flight to ensure success.

“We took off from the bottom of the crater and flew over a raised ridge line before plunging into Séítah,” said Ingenuity chief pilot HÃ¥vard Grip of JPL. “Since the helicopter’s navigation filter prefers flat terrain, we programmed a waypoint near the ridge line, where the helicopter slows down and hovers for a moment. Our flight simulations indicated that this small “breather” would help the helicopter stay on course despite significant variations in the terrain. He does the same on his return. It’s great to see this happen, and it reinforces the precision of our modeling and our understanding of how best to mine Ingenuity.

The wide-angle view also shows how Ingenuity maintains altitude during flight. After an initial ascent to an altitude of 26 feet (8 meters), the helicopter’s laser altimeter notes a change in elevation in the terrain below as it heads northeast toward the line of Crete. Ingenuity automatically adjusts, climbing slightly as you approach the ridge, then descending to stay 26 feet (8 meters) above the undulating surface. Once it flies to the right, out of sight, Ingenuity collects 10 images of the rock outcrop with its color camera before returning into the frame and returning to land at the targeted location.

After Flight 13, Ingenuity fell silent in October, along with NASA’s other spacecraft on Mars during Mars’ solar conjunction, when the red planet and Earth are on either side of the Sun, preventing most communications. After the conjunction, Ingenuity performed a short experimental flight test before embarking on Flight 15, which began the journey in multiple flights to the vicinity of “Wright Brothers Field”, its point of departure in April.

Learn more about ingenuity

The Ingenuity Mars helicopter was built by JPL, which also manages the operations demonstration activity during its extended mission for NASA Headquarters. It is supported by the Science, Aeronautical Research and Space Technology mission directions of NASA. NASA’s Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley, California, and NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, provided meaningful flight performance analysis and technical support during the development of Ingenuity. AeroVironment Inc., Qualcomm and SolAero also provided design assistance and major components of the vehicle. Lockheed Martin Space designed and manufactured the Mars Helicopter Delivery System.

Learn more about perseverance

A key focus of Perseverance’s mission to Mars is astrobiology, including looking for signs of ancient microbial life. The rover will characterize the planet’s past geology and climate, pave the way for human exploration of the Red Planet, and be the first mission to collect and cache Martian rock and regolith.

Subsequent NASA missions, in cooperation with ESA (European Space Agency), would send spacecraft to Mars to collect these sealed samples on the surface and return them to Earth for further analysis.

The Mars 2020 Perseverance mission is part of NASA’s Moon-to-Mars exploration approach, which includes Artemis missions to the Moon that will help prepare for human exploration of the Red Planet.

JPL, which is managed for NASA by Caltech in Pasadena, Calif., Built and manages the operations of the Perseverance rover.

To find out more about Perseverance:


Media contacts

DC Agle
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California
[email protected]

Karen Fox / Alana Johnson
Headquarters, Washington
301-286-6284 / 202-358-1501
[email protected] / [email protected]


Comments are closed.