Like some hobbits, a small Martian helicopter received a special honor.
The final resting place of NASA’s Ingenuity, grounded after its final flight on January 18, now has a new name bestowed upon it by fantasy fans.
“The Ingenuity team has dubbed the location where the helicopter completed its final flight ‘Valinor Hills’ after the fictional location from JRR Tolkien’s fantasy novels, including the ‘Lord of the Rings’ trilogy,” officials from Ingenuity said. The NASA. wrote on Monday (February 6th).
Related: NASA will ‘shake’ the broken blades of the Ingenuity Mars helicopter to analyze the damage
Tolkien (1982-1973), an Anglo-Saxon scholar at Oxford University, is best known for his fantasy works including “The Lord of the Rings,” “The Hobbit” and “The Silmarillion.”
Several of Tolkien’s stories have been turned into short stories for radio, television, streaming and Hollywood, such as the LOTR film series and “The Hobbit” directed by Peter Jackson in the 2000s and 2010s, and “The Lord of the Rings : The Rings of Power” Amazon Prime Series 2022.
Valinor was part of the Undying Lands, a place often cited in Tolkien’s mythology. The most cited reference to those islands appears at the end of LOTR. The elves granted some of the main characters refuge there, after the guests played key roles in a quest to destroy a powerful ring that threatened the universe.
The islands of the Undying Lands were home to the elves and also the Valar, the latter referring to beings who played a role in the creation of the world, according to a 2009 document in the peer-reviewed journal “Mythlore” led by Keith Kelly of Kutztown University of Pennsylvania. While not entirely equivalent to Judeo-Christian concepts of heaven, according to Tolkien’s letters cited in the article, the Undying Lands are a point of refuge and eternal rest.
The informal name of the location (used by NASA engineers for honorary and navigational purposes) is appropriate for Ingenuity, which has made 72 flights since landing on the surface of Mars with its robotic companion, the Perseverance rover, on December 18. February 2021.
After making the first flight of a powered aircraft on a planet other than Earth, Ingenuity’s adventures quickly extended from its five-flight range to acting as a scout for future Perseverance sampling locations to enhance the ongoing search for the life mission on the ancient Red Planet.
The latest sojourn was cut short on Jan. 18 due to a difficult stretch of Martian sand described as “soft,” to the point that the helicopter found it difficult to judge landscape features, such as rocks, for navigation.
The helicopter’s flying days ended after engineers detected damage to the blades, rendering it unable to fly again. However, since Ingenuity is in good health, it can still transmit engineering data to Perseverance as long as the rover remains in range.
Perseverance, however, will continue to prioritize its mission of collecting samples for a possible Mars Sample Return (MSR) mission in the 2030s. That means that, sooner or later, the rover will move away from the grounded Ingenuity and leave the flying sentinel silently, marking the end of the drone’s mission.
NASA plans to continue deploying flying sentries on future missions, including two search helicopters in the MSR mission plan. But that assumes that the program’s current budget problems can be overcome quickly. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which manages Ingenuity and MSR, cut 8% of its workforce this week due to Congressional uncertainty over the NASA and MSR budget.
NASA is operating under a continuing resolution that freezes spending in the 2023 budget limits until spending for the new fiscal year can be negotiated. “Impacts will occur in the laboratory’s technical and support areas,” JPL officials said in a statement. recent statement. “These are painful but necessary adjustments that will allow us to meet our budget allocation while continuing our important work for NASA and our nation.”