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Mars Helicopter Captures Stunning Images Of Debris Field


NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter on Mars snapped new images of spacecraft debris on the red planet. But it wasn’t aliens.

The images, snapped earlier this month from a height of 26 feet, show the dust-covered cables that connected the backshell to the supersonic parachute used during last year’s nail-biter landing.

This image of Perseverance’s backshell (left of center) and supersonic parachute (far right), was collected from an altitude of 26 feet by NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter on April 19, 2022.

The cable appears to be intact, the space agency said.

“The backshell and parachute helped protect the rover in deep space and during its fiery descent toward the Martian surface,” NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory said in a news release.

Cables emerge from the backshell to the supersonic parachute that brought the Ingenuity helicopter and Perseverance rover to Mars.
Cables emerge from the backshell to the supersonic parachute that brought the Ingenuity helicopter and Perseverance rover to Mars.

NASA said the debris field is the result of the backshell and parachute hitting the Martian surface at a speed of 78 mph after it released the Perseverance rover, which landed much more gently via a rocket-powered descent.

“The canopy shows no signs of damage from the supersonic airflow during inflation,” NASA said.

Only about a third of the 70-foot wide parachute is visible in the images:

The supersonic parachute.
The supersonic parachute.

NASA said analysis of the images could help provide insight for future missions to Mars.

“Perseverance had the best-documented Mars landing in history, with cameras showing everything from parachute inflation to touchdown,” Ian Clark, former Perseverance systems engineer and current Mars Sample Return ascent phase lead, said in a news release. “But Ingenuity’s images offer a different vantage point. 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.”

The plutonium-powered Perseverance, NASA’s biggest and most advanced rover on Mars, will hunt for signs of life in an area scientists believe was once a river delta. It will also take samples, seal them in tubes and leave them to be collected and brought back to Earth by a future mission.

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