NASA’s resourceful helicopter sees potential Mars “way” in front of it

Flight 12 View of South Séitah

This image of the South Séítah region of Jezero Crater was captured by NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter during its 12th flight on Mars, on Aug. 16, 2021. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
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Persistence scientist impressed with aerial photos of sites eligible for exploration by the rover.

Ask any space explorer and they’ll have one or two favorite photos from their mission. For Ken Farley, the project scientist for


Founded in 1958, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is an independent agency of the United States federal government that succeeded the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). It is responsible for the civil space program and for aerospace and aerospace research. Its vision is to “discover and extend knowledge for the benefit of humanity.”

“>NASA‘s Perseverance rover, one of his current favorites is a color image of “South Seitah,” an area the mission’s science team said may be worth a rover visit. The ingenuity of the agency


Mars is the second smallest planet in our solar system and the fourth planet from the sun. Iron oxide is common on the surface of Mars, resulting in its reddish color and its nickname ‘The Red Planet’. The name Mars comes from the Roman god of war.

“>Mars Helicopter took the photo during its 12th and most recent flight, on August 16.

Prior to Ingenuity’s last flight, most of what the Perseverance science team knew about the southern portion of the Seitah feature came from orbiter images. Based on that data, they thought the site could potentially be a treasure trove of complex geology, yielding information that could play a valuable role in looking for signs of ancient microbial life and attempts to characterize the area’s geology. and to understand the history of the area.

They used the rotorcraft images to look for signs of stratified, sedimentary rock that could have been deposited in water, intriguing rock outcrops accessible to the rover, and safe routes for the rover to take in and out of the area.

“From a scientific standpoint, these images of South Seitah are the most valuable that Ingenuity has created to date,” said Farley, who works at Caltech. “And part of their value may lie in what they are not show. Sedimentary layers in rocks are not immediately apparent in the image, and there may be areas that are difficult to reach with the rover. There is work to be done for our science and rover steering teams to better understand how to respond to the new data.”

Ingenuity obtained 10 images of the area as it flew into and out of South Seitah at a height of 10 meters. The flight was one of the most complicated the helicopter team has completed its longest multi-waypoint flight yet (169.5 seconds), as it flew from relatively nondescript terrain outside South Seitah to much more varied terrain and then back out again.

“What this image might say is that we don’t have to drive further west to get the best geological variety from this first science campaign,” Farley said. “If we decide to make the trip to South Seitah, we’ll have valuable information about what we’ll encounter. And if the decision is to stay around Artuby Ridge, the rover’s current location, we’ve saved precious time. It’s a win-win situation.”

More about ingenuity

The Ingenuity Mars Helicopter was built by


The Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) is a federally funded research and development center operated for NASA by the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). The primary function of the laboratory is the construction and operation of planetary robotic spacecraft, but it also conducts missions around Earth and astronomy. It is also responsible for operating NASA’s Deep Space Network. JPL implements programs in planetary exploration, earth science, space astronomy and technological development, while applying its capabilities to technical and scientific problems of national importance.

“>JPL, which also manages the operations demonstration activities during its expanded mission for NASA headquarters. It is supported by NASA’s Science, Aerospace Research and Space Technology Mission Directorates. NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley, and NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, provided key flight performance analysis and technical assistance during the development of Ingenuity. AeroVironment Inc., Qualcomm and SolAero also provided design assistance and key vehicle components. Lockheed Martin Space designed and manufactured the Mars Helicopter Delivery System.

More about perseverance

An important goal of Perseverance’s mission on Mars is: astrobiology, including looking for signs of ancient microbial life. The rover will characterize the planet’s past geology and climate, pave the way for human exploration of the Red Planet, and be the first mission to collect and cache Mars rock and regolith.

Subsequent NASA missions, in conjunction with ESA (European Space Agency), would send spacecraft to Mars to collect these sealed samples from the surface and return them to Earth for in-depth analysis.

The Mars 2020 Perseverance mission is part of NASA’s Moon to Mars exploration approach, which includes: Artemis missions to the moon that will help prepare for human exploration of the Red Planet.

JPL, which is operated for NASA by Caltech in Pasadena, California, built and operated the Perseverance rover.

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