The little helicopter that the Perseverance rover brought to Mars has paid its older brother for the tagalong – taking aerial images of the Red Planet that the rover can use to aid it on its journey through Jezero crater.
Having made the first rotary flight on Mars earlier this year, NASA’s Ingenuity Helicopter is now on its ninth flight, and on July 5 it revealed details about the underlying geography of Mars that will be crucial to completing the rover’s mission. . .
During its last two minutes and forty-six seconds in the air, the helicopter quadrupled its own distance traveled record and also broke cruising speed and time records while hovering over an area called Séítah, which will be difficult for a rover. like the perseverance to navigate due to the soft sand that there is.
He also took amazing pictures of rippling sand, shadows, rocks, and other Utah-like terrain features.
“We hope the color images will provide the closest view yet of ‘Pilot Pinnacle’, a location with outcrops that some team members believe can record some of the deepest water environments in ancient Lake Jezero.” wrote Members of the ingenuity team on the project website.
In fact, this most recent flight, and the photos that took three days to send and process, revealed some high-value science targets like so-called raised bridges that NASA scientists believe could be the key to finding remains of ancient life. in a lake bed that is billions of years old.
“By spying on the ridges in images from Mars orbiters, scientists have wondered if water could have flowed through these fractures at some point, dissolving minerals that could help feed former microbial colonies,” NASA writes.
Other areas encountered during Flight 9 include open sand dunes that Perseverance must avoid at all costs – or risk getting stuck – and images of the Martian bedrock, which looks like an interesting feature that will later be reviewed by the rover.
“Our current plan is to visit Raised Ridges and investigate it closely,” said Perseverance deputy project scientist Ken Williford. “The helicopter images have a much better resolution than the orbital ones we were using. Studying them will allow us to make sure that visiting these ridges is important to the team. ”That is an important detail when the mission schedule is tight and power resources are limited.
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