NASA films rare footage of its Mars helicopter flying and landing

The aerial robot scouts the Red Planet.
By Mark Kaufman  on 
NASA's Perseverance rover filmed the Ingenuity helicopter during its 54th flight.
NASA's Perseverance rover filmed the Ingenuity helicopter during its 54th flight. Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / ASU / MSSS

Flying on Mars presents a major challenge.

The Martian surface air density is only about one percent of Earth's, making it difficult for craft to produce the lift necessary to fly. Yet NASA's experimental Ingenuity helicopter was designed to create lift with its rotors under such unique conditions. Using a four-foot wingspan, the robot has now flown over 50 times — though the space agency only expected it to last for five flights.

NASA's car-sized Perseverance rover recently captured footage of the helicopter's entire 54th flight in early August. After Ingenuity experienced a flight anomaly, causing it to promptly land, NASA ran this aerial test to make sure the navigation system still worked properly — which it does.

On the far bottom of the video, at about 5 seconds in, Ingenuity fires up its rotors. At 15 seconds in, the robot takes off. It hovers 16 feet in the Martian air before touching down. All 46 seconds can be watched below:

Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / ASU / MSSS

Perseverance captured this clear shot from 180 feet away. Along with its trusty sidekick, Ingenuity, the rover is scouring rocks and soil for biosignatures — "an object, substance, and/or pattern whose origin specifically requires a biological agent," the space agency explained.

"A key objective for Perseverance's mission on Mars is astrobiology, including the search for signs of ancient microbial life," NASA wrote.

Want more science and tech news delivered straight to your inbox? Sign up for Mashable's Light Speed newsletter today.

There remains zero evidence that life ever existed on Mars. But primitive life may have existed in Martian caverns or perhaps much deeper in the soil. And beyond Mars, in the oceans of Enceladus and Europa out in deeper space, planetary scientists suspect conditions might be suitable for life to evolve, if not flourish.

Topics NASA

Mashable Image
Mark Kaufman

Mark is an award-winning journalist and the science editor at Mashable. After communicating science as a ranger with the National Park Service, he began a reporting career after seeing the extraordinary value in educating the public about the happenings in earth sciences, space, biodiversity, health, and beyond. 

You can reach Mark at [email protected].


Recommended For You
How a solar eruption would impact astronauts on the moon and Mars

Meet the family in Netflix's tense 'Fall of the House of Usher' clip

NASA's dropping off a space package from 63,000 miles high

The best water filters for any situation
By Team Commerce

Apple iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max review: Close to perfection

More in Science
Video and audio calls on X, formerly Twitter, will be for paying subscribers only

ChatGPT rolls out voice and image capabilities

Target Circle Week is getting a huge head start on Amazon's Prime Big Deal Days this October

You can ask Windows 11 AI for info inside your phone's texts. Here's how it works.
By Kimberly Gedeon

Apple admits there's an iPhone 15 setup bug. Here's how to fix it.

Trending on Mashable
Wordle today: Here's the answer and hints for September 26

NYT Connections today: See hints and answers for September 25

NASA rover finds place where extraordinary events occurred on Mars

Webb telescope just made tantalizing find on ocean world Europa

The biggest stories of the day delivered to your inbox.
This newsletter may contain advertising, deals, or affiliate links. Subscribing to a newsletter indicates your consent to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. You may unsubscribe from the newsletters at any time.
Thanks for signing up. See you at your inbox!