The Ingenuity Mars Helicopter, which was part of the Perseverance rover NASA sent to Mars, has recently taken images of the parachute and backshell wreckage that protected it during its fiery descent onto the planet last year.
While it looks like something that could feature in a post-apocalyptic film, the color images provided a new perspective that “no previous planetary mission could achieve,” with the team calling its successful snapshots a “perfect example of the utility of aerial platforms on Mars.”
When the Perseverance entered the Martian atmosphere, it was met with incredible strong gravitational forces, high temperates, and other extremes that come with traveling at 20,000 kph.
The crash site had been previously imaged from a distance, but the new pictures provide a lot more detail to scientists, which can then use the information to ensure safer landings for future spacecraft making its way to the Red Planet.
In order to capture the pictures, Ingenuity had to spend a total of 49 minutes in the air on April 19, coincidentally the one-year anniversary of its very first flight. Flying at about 26 feet above ground, the helicopter traveled 630 feet to take its first image, before maneuvering along a pre-planned route (3.9 miles) to snap the rest.
“Perseverance had the best-documented Mars landing in history, with cameras showing everything from parachute inflation to touchdown. But Ingenuity’s images offer a different vantage point,” remarked Ian Clark, former Perseverance systems engineer and now Mars Sample Return ascent phase lead at JPL.
“If they either reinforce that our systems worked as we think they worked or provide even one dataset of engineering information we can use for Mars Sample Return planning, it will be amazing. And if not, the pictures are still phenomenal and inspiring,” he added.