We say goodbye to our flying friend and we approach the edge of the hole

We say goodbye to our flying friend and we approach the edge of the hole

Perseverance discovers ingenuity in its final airport: NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover captured this mosaic showing the Ingenuity Mars helicopter on its final airfield on February 4, 2024. The helicopter destroyed its rotor blades while landing on its 72nd flight on January 18, 2024. The Ingenuity team has named the spot where the helicopter completed its final flight Valinor Hills is named after the fictional location in J. R. R. Tolkien’s fantasy novels, which include the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Source: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Arizona State University/MSSS. Download image ›

After 72 flights and 17 kilometers, it was finally time to say goodbye to the Ingenuity helicopter. It was announced last week that Ingenuity’s mission is nearing its end after it suffered rotor blade damage on its final flight. Ingenuity’s long and remarkably successful journey began three years ago on the floor of Jezero Crater and will end at Neretva Vallis, a canal that once brought water to an ancient lake. Ingenuity became the first rover to achieve controlled, powered flight on another planet, giving the science team access to landscapes inaccessible to any rovers. This week, Perseverance flew within about 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 obtain long-range images of Ingenuity using our Mastcam-Z instrument.

While Ingenuity’s mission has reached its end, Perseverance is approaching one of the most exciting parts of its mission yet. Perseverance continues to explore the Margin Unit, an area on the rim of Jezero Crater with strong evidence of carbonate minerals from orbit. Our team made the most of this final stretch of terrain, taking SuperCam LIBS and VISIR observations of an outcropped rock called Porkchop Geyser and capturing Mastcam-Z images of a rocky outcrop called Muiron Island. As the rover heads west, we are diligently preparing for what lies ahead. In orbital images of the crater’s rim, we can see huge blocks — called “megabreccia” — that presumably arose from the impact that created Jezero Crater or represent older rocks ejected from the massive Isidis Basin to the east.

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

(Tags for translation)NASA

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