Backyard Observatory

Watch NASA's Mars Helicopter Fly Across the Red Planet in 3D

It's Mars like you've never seen it before.

NASA's latest mission to Mars has been providing unprecedented views of the red planet. It feels like there's been a showstopping image or video released almost weekly.  Now, the mission is showing the earth-bound a view of Mars in 3D.  

The Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) has been conducting tests of its groundbreaking helicopter, Ingenuity. The small helicopter that joined the Perseverance rover for the trip to Mars has been flying around the Jezero Crater, providing a glimpse of the future of planetary exploration. This time, Perseverance has shared a video of Ingenuity's first flight from back on April 25 in 3D. The rover was positioned nearby as Ingenuity took its historic flight. (To see the video, you need to use color-filtered glasses, and NASA has provided instructions on how to make your own.)

Engineers at NASA have rendered the flight in 3D, which provides unprecedented context for what the car-sized rover sees. The video was created by a team at the JPL stitching together images taken by the zoomable dual-camera Mastcam-Z on Perseverance's mast. In the video, you can watch Ingenuity take off in the distance, fly off-screen, and return to land right where it took off. 

"A helicopter flying on Mars opens a new era for Mars exploration. It’s a great demonstration of a new technology for exploration. With each flight we open up more possibilities," said Justin Maki, an imaging specialist at the JPL who led the team that created this video.

Ingenuity has now taken five flights. NASA says that the flights "began as a technology demonstration intended to prove that powered, controlled flight on Mars is possible. Now they will serve as an operations demostration, exploring how aerial scouting and other functions could benefit future exploration of Mars."

Ready to go stargazing?

Here are all the best stargazing events that you can get out and see this month or you could stay in a stream the northern lights from home. If you're just getting started, check out our guide to astronomy for beginners, the best meteor showers of 2021, or easy stargazing road trips from big US cities

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Dustin Nelson is a Senior Staff Writer at Thrillist. Follow Dustin Nelson on Twitter.
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