Our favorite Martian helicopter did it again. The tiny Ingenuity chopper recently did its 51st flight on Mars. It traveled 188 meters this time (about 617 feet) on April 22, 2023, and reached a maximum altitude of 12 meters (about 39 feet) over the Martian surface. During that time, it snapped another image of its Perseverance mothership, waiting patiently on the horizon.
In NASA’s flight log for Ingenuity, the trip achieved a hop from Airfield Mu to Airfield Nu. In addition to the view of Perseverance, it also captured a quick shot of some debris left over from the entry, descent, and landing sequence in early 2021.
Here’s Ingenuity’s view of some debris left over from the entry, descent, and landing sequence that brought her and Perseverance to Mars. Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech
Looking Around at the Rover and Its Locale
Currently, the rover is parked at a rock outcrop nicknamed “Echo Creek.” That’s where the Perseverance team is doing distance measurements. The team is also studying the rocks in this region. Orbital images show them as brighter than surrounding areas. They also seem to be fractured into polygon-shaped patterns. All of these rock studies are part of the team’s study of the upper part of the Fan region in Jezero Crater.
Nearby Echo Creek is a small hill called “Mount Julian”, which the rover will be exploring in the very near future. Both crafts are on the edge of Belva Crater. That’s an interesting surface feature with a depth-to-diameter ratio that makes it shallower than other craters. It looks as if the crater walls were broken down or breached at some point. That raises interesting questions about its ancient past. Was it once filled with water? Are the rims eroded? If so, what happened to break them down?
Perseverance and the Big Picture
The Mars Perseverance rover and its little Ingenuity chopper are exploring Jezero Crater on Mars. This region is pretty intriguing because it looks like water played a huge role in shaping the landforms there. The crater itself formed during an ancient impact event. At least 3.5 billion years ago, river channels brought water into the crater and created a lake inside. That carried clay minerals into the crater lake. The whole sequence of events raises questions about how long the water lasted, and whether it sustained any kind of life (probably microbial).
A view of Jezero Crater from space. Perseverance is currently exploring the delta Fan region in the crater. Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech.
The Perseverance rover has the instruments and ability to study Mars’s ancient rocks. In fact, until recently, it carried a “pet rock” along in its wheel, only to lose it after 427 days of roaming around. Perseverance drills into surface rocks and provides information to scientists about their chemical makeup and other characteristics. The Ingenuity chopper started out as a tech demonstration of five flights. With 51 achieved, it just keeps going and going, providing unique looks at the landscape and its mothership.
A screen capture from the Mars 2020 rover page showing the April 28 location of Perseverance and the Ingenuity helicopter.