A small Martian helicopter was given particular recognition, just like certain hobbits.
The last resting site of NASA’s Ingenuity, which was grounded on January 18 following its last mission, has received a new moniker by fantasy enthusiasts.
“The Ingenuity team has nicknamed the spot where the helicopter completed its final flight ‘Valinor Hills’ after the fictional location in J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy novels, which include ‘The Lord of the Rings’ trilogy,” NASA officials said on Monday, February 6.
The fantasy novels “The Hobbit,” “The Silmarillion,” and “The Lord of the Rings” (LOTR) are among the best-known works by Tolkien, an Anglo-Saxon researcher at the University of Oxford who lived from 1982 to 1973.
LOTR and “The Hobbit” movie series, which were directed by Peter Jackson in the 2000s and 2010s, as well as “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power” Amazon Prime series from 2022, are just a few examples of the stories that Tolkien wrote that have been adapted for radio, television, streaming, and Hollywood.
One area that appears frequently in Tolkien’s mythology is the Undying Lands, where Valinor was located. The last words of LOTR contain the most frequent mention of those islands. After the invitees were instrumental in a mission to destroy a potent finger-ring that threatened the universe, the elves allowed several of the main characters sanctuary there.
In 2009, Keith Kelly of Kutztown University in Pennsylvania led an article in the peer-reviewed journal “Mythlore” that claimed that the elves and the Valar—beings that had a part in creating the world—lived on the islands of the Undying Lands. The Undying Lands are a place of eternal refuge and rest, according to Tolkien’s letters, which are quoted in the paper, however they are not entirely comparable to the Judeo-Christian conception of heaven.
The location’s colloquial name, which NASA engineers use for honorific and navigational purposes, is appropriate for Ingenuity, which has completed 72 flights since landing on Mars on February 18, 2021, together with its robotic companion, the Perseverance rover.
Ingenuity’s adventures immediately expanded beyond its five-flight scope to include serving as a scout for future Perseverance sample areas to strengthen the mission’s ongoing hunt for ancient Red Planet life, following its successful completion of the first powered aircraft fly on a planet other than Earth.
A challenging section of Martian dunes characterized as “bland” made it impossible for the helicopter to discern topographical characteristics like rocks for navigation, forcing the last visit to be shortened on January 18.
Engineers have determined that the helicopter’s blade damage has rendered it unfit for flight, therefore ending its flying days. However, as long as the rover stays within range, Ingenuity can continue to send engineering data to Perseverance despite its current state of health.
But Perseverance will never give up on its goal of gathering samples for a potential Mars sample return mission (MSR) in the 2030s. This indicates that the drone’s mission will eventually come to an end when the rover moves away from the grounded Ingenuity and the flying sentinel becomes silent.
NASA does intend to keep sending flying sentinels on upcoming missions; the MSR mission plan calls for the deployment of two retrieve helicopters. However, that is presuming that the program’s persistent financial difficulties can be resolved promptly. Congress’s ambiguity over NASA’s budget and MSR led to an 8% staff cut at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which oversees Ingenuity and MSR.
Until the spending for the upcoming fiscal year can be negotiated, NASA’s operations are governed by a continuing resolution that caps spending at the 2023 budgetary levels. According to a recent statement by JPL officials, “the impacts will occur across both technical and support areas of the Lab.” “These are painful but necessary adjustments that will enable us to adhere to our budget allocation while continuing our important work for NASA and our nation.”