Perseverance rover spots Ingenuity helicopter on sand dune
NASA’s Perseverance rover just got another glimpse of its pioneering robotic cousin.
“The #MarsHelicopter and I are closer than we’ve been in a while, and guess who I saw resting on a dune between flights. Can you believe Ingenuity is gearing up for Flight #39?” the persistence team said via Twitter (opens in new tab) on Wednesday (Jan. 11), in a post with a photo of the small helicopter.
Resourcefulness and perseverance came together inside MarsJezero Crater in February 2021. The 45-kilometer-wide Jezero was home to a large lake and river delta long ago, and Perseverance is scouring the area for signs of ancient life on Mars.
The six-wheeled robot also collects and stores dozens of samples for future return to Earth. The past few weeks has been Perseverance cache some of his sample tubes in a “depot”. in a section of Jezero’s floor that the mission team calls Three Forks.
Perseverance has paid off so far six of the planned 10 sample tubes (opens in new tab) at the Three Forks depot, which serves as a backup in case the rover isn’t healthy enough to carry material to a future NASA lander later this decade. A rocket aboard that lander will launch the samples to Mars orbit, where they will be picked up by a European spacecraft and towed back to Earth. The monsters can land here as early as 2033.
The depot samples are double; Perseverance keeps a set of material drilled from the same target rocks on its body. If necessary, two Ingenuity-like helicopters that will launch with the future lander will fly to Three Forks and take the sample tubes one by one.
Ingenuity currently serves as a scout for Perseverance, helping the rover team choose the best routes through the rugged Jezero landscape and identify promising outcrops for in-depth exploration.
This work is part of the helicopter’s extended mission. Not long after landing, Ingenuity achieved its primary five-flight campaign, demonstrating that powered flight is possible in the thin Mars atmosphere.
Ingenuity performed its 39th Mars flight on Wednesday, traversing 140 meters of ground in nearly 79 seconds. To date, the helicopter has flown a total of 25,690 feet (7,830 m) over Mars and remained in the air for more than 64 minutes, according to the the flight log of the mission (opens in new tab).
Perseverance has previously captured footage of Ingenuity. For example, the rover took pictures of the helicopter just after it deployed on Jezero’s floor, as well recorded video of Ingenuity’s 13th flightwhich took place in September 2021.
Mike Wall is the author of “Outside (opens in new tab)(Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for extraterrestrial life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall (opens in new tab). follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in new tab) and further Facebook (opens in new tab).
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