Like some hobbits, a small Martian helicopter received a special honor.
The final resting place of NASA's Ingenuity rover, which was parked after its final flight on Jan. 18, now has a new name courtesy of a fantasy fan.
“The creative team named the place where the helicopter completed its final journey ‘Valinor Hills’ after the fictional location in J. R. R. Tolkien’s fantasy novels, which include the Lord of the Rings trilogy.” He wrote on Monday (February 6).
Related: NASA 'shakes' broken Ingenuity Mars helicopter blades to analyze damage
Tolkien (1973-1982), an Anglo-Saxon scholar at Oxford University, best known for his fantasy works including The Lord of the Rings (LOTR), The Hobbit and The Silmarillion.
Many of Tolkien's stories have been turned into tales for radio, television, streaming and Hollywood, such as the LOTR film series, “The Hobbit” directed by Peter Jackson in the 2000s and 2010s, and “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of”. Power” is an Amazon Prime series from 2022.
Valinor was part of the Undying Lands, a location often cited in Tolkien's mythology. The most frequently mentioned reference to those islands comes at the end of LOTR. The elves have granted some key figures asylum there, after the invitees played key roles in a quest to destroy a powerful finger ring that threatens the universe.
The Isles of the Undying Lands were home to the Elves and also the Valar, the latter referring to the beings who played a role in the creation of the world, according to Paper 2009 In the peer-reviewed journal Mythlore, led by Keith Kelly of Kutztown University in Pennsylvania. Although not exactly equivalent to Judeo-Christian notions of heaven, according to Tolkien's letters mentioned in the paper, the Undying Lands are a point of refuge and eternal rest.
The site's informal name (used by NASA engineers for navigational and honorific purposes) is fitting for Ingenuity, which has made 72 flights since landing on Mars with its robotic companion, the Perseverance rover, on February 18, 2021.
After making the first flight of a powered aircraft on a planet other than Earth, Ingenuity's adventures quickly expanded from the scope of its five flights to serving as a scout for future Perseverance sampling sites to advance the mission's ongoing search for ancient life on the Red Planet.
The final flight on January 18 was cut short due to a difficult stretch of Martian sand that was described as “gentle,” so much so that it was difficult for the helicopter to judge landscape features such as rocks for navigation.
The helicopter's flying days are over after engineers discover the blades are damaged, leaving it unable to fly again. Since Ingenuity is healthy, it can still transmit engineering data to Perseverance as long as the rover stays within range.
However, Perseverance will continue to prioritize its mission of collecting samples for a potential Mars Sample Return (MSR) mission in the 2030s. This means that sooner or later, the spacecraft will turn away from the grounded Ingenuity and leave the flying sentinel silent, marking the end of the drone's mission.
NASA plans to continue deploying flying guards on future missions, including two helicopters in the MSR mission plan. But this assumes that persistent problems with the program's budget can be quickly resolved. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which runs Ingenuity and MSR, cut 8% of its workforce this week due to uncertainty in Congress over the budget for NASA and MSR.
NASA is operating under a standing resolution that freezes spending at the 2023 budget limits until spending for the new fiscal year can be negotiated. “Impacts will occur across technical and support areas of the laboratory,” JPL officials said in a statement. Final statement. “These are painful but necessary adjustments that will enable us to adhere to our budget allocations while continuing our important work for NASA and our nation.”
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