NASA’s Ingenuity Helicopter aerial imagery of a site on Mars revealed “otherworldly” images of the cone-shaped shell that protected the explorer robot during its fiery descent to the Martian surface on February 18, 2021.
Entry, descent, and landing on Mars is a challenge for any mission, as vehicles endure extreme gravitational forces, high temperatures, and pressure drops entering the Martian atmosphere at nearly 20,000 km/h (12,500 mph).
NASA’s Perseverance rover made the most documented Mars landing in history, with cameras showing everything from parachute deployment to landing.
Although only a third of the parachute can be seen in the new images, NASA scientists say the canopy shows no signs of being damaged by supersonic airflow during inflation.
They say the images required many pre-planned flights and careful helicopter maneuvers.
“Ingenuity maneuvered a lot to get the footage we needed, but we were confident because maneuvering was difficult on the 10th, 12th, and 13th flights. Our landing site prepared us well for depicting an area of interest in the science of persistence. On Flight 2, near Seita Ridge,” said Howard Grip, Ingenuity Chief Pilot at JPL.
“Rising more than 130 feet (40 m) above the crater floor and filled with jagged rocks, sloping surfaces, protruding boulders, and sand-filled pockets, the delta promises to contain many geological discoveries — perhaps even proof that microscopic life has existed on Mars for billions of year’s back. Years ago,” NASA notes.
The data provided by the helicopter will help the Perseverance team assess potential scientific targets for researching their rover, as well as offer assistance with route planning.
NASA says Ingenuity can even be used to image geological features that are too far away from the Perseverance rover.