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NASA’s Perseverance Mars Rover Spots Ingenuity Helicopter at Its Final Resting Place

Perseverance Spots Ingenuity at Its Final Airfield: NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover captured this mosaic showing the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter at its final airfield on February 4, 2024. The helicopter damaged its rotor blades during landing on its 72nd flight on January 18, 2024. The Ingenuity team has nicknamed the spot where the helicopter completed its final flight “Valinor Hills” after the fictional location in J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy novels, which include “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU/MSSS

Ingenuity’s groundbreaking mission concludes after 72 flights, while Perseverance’s exploration of MarsMars is the second smallest planet in our solar system and the fourth planet from the sun. It is a dusty, cold, desert world with a very thin atmosphere. Iron oxide is prevalent in Mars' surface resulting in its reddish color and its nickname "The Red Planet." Mars' name comes from the Roman god of war.” data-gt-translate-attributes=”[{“attribute”:”data-cmtooltip”, “format”:”html”}]” tabindex=”0″ role=”link”>Mars enters an exciting phase, focusing on geological discoveries that could shed light on the planet’s ancient history.

After 72 flights and 17 kilometers flown, it is finally time for us to say goodbye to the Ingenuity helicopter. It was announced last month that Ingenuity’s mission is now coming to an end after it sustained damage to a rotor blade on its final flight.

Ingenuity’s long and remarkably successful journey began three years ago on the floor of Jezero Crater and it will end in Neretva Vallis, a channel that once brought water into an ancient lake. Ingenuity became the first craft to achieve controlled and powered flight on another planet, giving the science team access to landscapes inaccessible to any rover.

This week Perseverance drove within ~450 meters of the helicopter, which is likely the closest we will be to our flying companion for the remainder of our mission. We took this opportunity to acquire long-distance imagery of Ingenuity with our Mastcam-Z instrument.

Mars Perseverance Sol 1048

NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover acquired this image using the SuperCam Remote Micro-Imager, located at the top of the rover’s mast. This image was acquired on January 31, 2024 (Sol 1048) at the local mean solar time of 11:31:25. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL/CNES/IRAP

While Ingenuity’s mission has reached its conclusion, Perseverance is approaching one of the most exciting parts of its mission so far. Perseverance is continuing to explore the margin unit, an area on the edge of Jezero Crater with strong signatures of carbonate minerals from orbit.

Our team made the most of this latest stretch of terrain, taking SuperCam LIBS and VISIR observations of a pitted rock named Porkchop Geyser (see image above) and capturing Mastcam-Z images of a rubbly outcrop called Muiron Island (see image below). As the rover makes its way west, we are diligently preparing for what lies ahead.

In orbital imagery of the crater rim we can see huge blocks – so-called ‘megabreccia’ – which are hypothesized to originate from the impact that created Jezero Crater or represent even older rocks ejected from the massive Isidis Basin to our east.

Mars Perseverance Sol 1045

NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover acquired this image using its Right Mastcam-Z camera. Mastcam-Z is a pair of cameras located high on the rover’s mast. This image was acquired on January 28, 2024 (Sol 1045) at the local mean solar time of 10:49:21. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU

While it is sad to be leaving Ingenuity behind, the future is bright for Perseverance and the science team is in high spirits. Ahead of us lies the mysterious crater rim, which may offer a window into a period of Mars’ history that no rover has ever seen before.

Written by Henry Manelski, PhD Student at Purdue University and Nathan Williams, Science Systems Engineer at JPLThe Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) is a federally funded research and development center that was established in 1936. It is owned by NASA and managed by the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). The laboratory's primary function is the construction and operation of planetary robotic spacecraft, though it also conducts Earth-orbit and astronomy missions. It is also responsible for operating NASA's Deep Space Network. JPL implements programs in planetary exploration, Earth science, space-based astronomy and technology development, while applying its capabilities to technical and scientific problems of national significance.” data-gt-translate-attributes=”[{“attribute”:”data-cmtooltip”, “format”:”html”}]” tabindex=”0″ role=”link”>JPL

Source: SciTechDaily