A NASA helicopter flying over Mars captured photographs of mysterious wreckage on the Red Planet’s surface.
The extraordinary pictures were captured in April last year on the 26th flight of NASA’s ingenuity helicopter, dubbed the ‘marscopter’
It was the first aircraft to achieve powered, controlled flight on another planet – and what’s more, it’s still out there collecting data.
Ingenuity has completed 67 flights, and is gearing up for its longest one yet.
One of it’s most memorable expeditions, however, had to be when it captured eerie, ‘otherworldly’ debris on the surface of Mars in striking color images.
Sadly though, this isn’t the wreckage of some Martian road traffic accident.
It is, in fact, the remains of the landing equipment used when Ingenuity arrived on Mars with the Perseverance rover back in 2021.
Speaking to the NY Times, Ian Clark, an engineer who worked on Perseverance’s parachute system, said of the photographs: “There’s definitely a sci-fi element to it. It exudes otherworldly, doesn’t it?”
He continued: “They say a picture’s worth 1,000 words, but it’s also worth an infinite amount of engineering understanding.”
Tasked with entry, descent and landing on Mars, landing vehicles are subject to gravitational forces, high temperatures and other extremes that come with entering Mars’ atmosphere at nearly 12,500 mph.
It’s quite a difficult feat to pull off.
Luckily for NASA, these photographs could actually be super helpful for technicians working on future missions.
Clark said: “Perseverance had the best-documented Mars landing in history, with cameras showing everything from parachute inflation to touchdown,” Clark said.
“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.”
Teddy Tzanetos, Ingenuity’s team lead at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, said: “NASA extended Ingenuity flight operations to perform pioneering flights such as this.
“Every time we’re airborne, Ingenuity covers new ground and offers a perspective no previous planetary mission could achieve.”
Ingenuity has far exceeded expectations, and was only meant to manage five flights once it landed on Mars.
But now, it’s getting ready to complete it’s 68th journey, flying a whopping 2,717 feet (828m).
It’s also aiming for a top speed of 36 km per hour – which isn’t especially speedy, but will tie a velocity record on Mars set back in October.
Not bad for a little helicopter.
Adapted from Unilad website