South Plains Astronomy Club

Observing Under The Dark West Texas Skies

Tom Heisey gave the presentation for the September meeting on the current news coming from Mars, primarily from the Perseverance rover and Ingenuity helicopter, but also from other missions and some new research findings.

Title page shot of the Sept 2021 presentation by Tom Heisey
Title page snapshot

We last discussed Ingenuity back in July when it had just finished flight 9. It had gone from technology demonstration that proved it could fly and maneuver to an operational phase where it acted as a scout for the Perseverance rover. At the time of the September meeting, it had completed 13 flights in an extended operational phase, scouting difficult terrain to help plan the rover’s path around sand dunes that could end the rover’s travels.

The Perseverance rover performed as the base station monitoring the helicopter’s flights, acting as a communication relay, weather station, and video monitoring station for the flights. Any movements were to aid in monitoring the helicopter and science was limited to images. However, now the roles are reversed and Ingenuity is a mobile scout and Perseverance is now starting the slow process of testing the various science instruments and starting with early observations, including the first few rock cores drilled by the robotic arm.

Some of the other news involved clouds on Mars (that looked quite a bit like a shot from New Mexico or Utah), findings on Martian volcanoes, and a discussion about the lakes at the polar caps that are probably not lakes.

The PDF of the presentation with notes is available here.