A New Year’s Reflection

contributed by Corrine Rojas

Looking at images from Mars is one of the most important aspects of my job in rover camera downlink operations. We recently rang in the new Martian year, year 37, on December 26th, 2022 and completed the primary mission on Friday, January 6th, 2023 (sol 669 of the mission). Feeling reflective, I brainstormed on what kind of image I would call my favorite as captured by the Mastcam-Z cameras. I thought it would be meaningful to find an image representative of the cameras’ technical capacity, one containing a cool feature unique to the mission, and most importantly to me — a gorgeous backdrop of Mars. At first I didn’t think I’d go through 2 Earth years of observations and find the one, but then the excitement of the first few flights by the Mars helicopter Ingenuity came to mind. Of course the camera team delivered just the right shot I was looking for.

On April 30th, 2021, Ingenuity took its 4th flight in Jezero crater, and Mastcam-Z recorded it on video with both cameras simultaneously. This is a still from that video sequence. The right camera was set to look upon the outcrop named Kodiak, which has become an iconic landmark for the Perseverance team. Dead center, you can see Ingenuity mid-flight, taken right around 12:30 LMST. 

This image reflects all of my criteria and more: it represents the novelty of having a camera with video-recording capabilities on Mars, it has Ingenuity, a technology demonstration of incredible importance for spaceflight history hovering from the ground in the middle of the frame, and lastly, the scenery. Kodiak lies just in front of the Jezero crater delta rim towering in the background, a reminder of the journey ahead to the top of the delta. Scientists have come to prefer looking at images with enhanced color modifications in order to improve the visual contrast (particularly with rocks), so these cooler colors and tones have become my default view for these sweeping landscapes of Mars.

Perseverance has come a long way in the past Martian year; showing off the impressive technology that her humans developed for her ambitious mission goals of finding ancient life, but always faithfully delivering these breathtaking views of Mars in the name of science.

January 17, 2023

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