This is the moment the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter is captured by NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover carrying out a complicated flight in preparation for an upcoming mission on the red planet.
On 19th April, the Ingenuity space chopper carried out its maiden flight, becoming the first motorised craft to fly on another planet.
The engineers who designed the revolutionary helicopter never expected it to carry out more than five flights, but it is now preparing for its 16th mission, which is scheduled for tomorrow, 20th November.
NASA said in a statement yesterday, 18th November, that the video of the test flight was captured on 4th September and shows the helicopter performing to near-perfection despite the complex conditions it faced.
According to NASA, the 160.5-second flight involved hovering over varied terrain and snapping pictures of an outcrop for the Mars rover team.
The helicopter often works in tandem with the Mars rover, carrying out scouting missions by providing it with a view of what is up ahead.
The flight successfully took several pictures from eight metres (26 feet) above the Martian surface, which are now being studied by the Mars rover team.
The video was captured by the rover’s Mastcam-Z and shows the 19-inch-tall mini-chopper taking off and landing safely.
Close-up footage was recorded of the take-off and landing specifically so that scientists could study the dust plumes generated in the process.
Justin Maki, the deputy principal investigator for the Mastcam-Z instrument, said: “The value of Mastcam-Z really shines through with these video clips.
“Even at 300 meters (984 feet) away, we get a magnificent closeup of take-off and landing through Mastcam-Z’s ‘right eye’. 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.”
As seen in the clip, during take-off, the chopper creates a plume of Martian dust and then climbs to its maximum altitude of eight metres (26 feet) before turning to correctly angle its colour camera towards the area targeted for scouting.
The Ingenuity then moves horizontally above the planet’s surface and lands at a new landing zone located around 12 metres (39 feet) from where it took off, as the sand at this site had become uneven following previous missions and may have complicated the landing.
NASA had serious doubts about the efficacy of the project, as the air on the surface of Mars is as thin as the air 30 kilometres (18 miles) above Earth’s surface.
Despite the concerns, Ingenuity continues to exceed expectations and is expected to carry out its 16th mission tomorrow.
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Story By: Peter Barker, Sub-Editor: Joseph Golder, Agency: Newsflash
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