NASA's Perseverance Mars Rover discovers the Ingenuity helicopter in its final resting place

Perseverance discovers 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 destroyed its rotor blades during landing on its 72nd flight on January 18, 2024. The team named the spot where it completed In which the helicopter makes its final flight, it is named “Valinor Hills” after the fictional location in JRR Tolkien's fantasy novels, which include “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy. Image source: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Arizona State University/MSSS

Ingenuity's flagship mission ends after 72 flybys, while Perseverance's exploratory mission ends Mars It enters an exciting phase, focusing on geological discoveries that could shed light on the ancient history of planet Earth.

After 72 flights and 17 kilometers, it was finally time to say goodbye to the Ingenuity helicopter. It was announced last month 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 in 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.

Mars Perseverance Sol 1048

NASA's Mars Perseverance spacecraft obtained 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) with local solar time of 11:31:25. Image source: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL/CNES/IRAP

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.

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Our team made the most of this final stretch of terrain, taking SuperCam LIBS and VISIR observations of an outcropped rock called Porkchop Geyser (see image above) and taking Mastcam-Z images of a rocky outcrop called Muiron Island (see image below). 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 collision that created Jezero Crater or even represent older rocks ejected from the massive Isidis Basin to the east.

Mars Perseverance Sol 1045

NASA's Mars Perseverance spacecraft obtained this image using the Right Mastcam-Z camera. Mastcam-Z is a pair of cameras located at the top of the rover's mast. This image was acquired on January 28, 2024 (Sol 1045) with local solar time of 10:49:21. Image source: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Arizona State University

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.

Written by Henry Manelsky, a PhD student at Purdue University and Nathan Williams, a science systems engineer at Jet Propulsion Laboratory

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