Ingenuity Mars helicopter takes stunning photos of Perseverance rover’s landing gear (video)

NASA’s Ingenuity Mars helicopter continues to give us views of the Red Planet we’ve never seen before.

During its last flight, which took place on April 19, the 4-pound (1.8 kilogram) Ingenuity photographed the parachute and rear shell that helped him and those of NASA Perseverance rover lands inside the Red Planet’s Jezero Crater on February 18, 2021.

This was no accidental observation. The Ingenuity team was asked to try to imagine Perseverance’s landing gear to help the joint NASA-European Space Agency Mars Sample Return project, which aims to transport the material Perseverance collects to Earth. , maybe as early as 2033.

Related: 1 year later, the Ingenuity helicopter continues to operate on Mars

“Perseverance was best documented March land in history, with cameras showing everything from parachute inflation to landing,” Ian Clark of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Southern California, a former Perseverance systems engineer and now phase lead ascension of Mars Sample Return, said in a statement Wednesday (April 27).

“But the Ingenuity footage offers a different perspective,” Clark added. “If they reinforce that our systems worked as we think they did or provide even a data set of technical information that we can use for planning the return of samples to Mars, that will be amazing. . And otherwise, the images are always phenomenal and inspiring.”

The tapered back shell helped Perseverance – with Ingenuity hidden in its belly – survive the long journey from the Red Planet to Earth, as well as the brief but searing journey through Atmosphere of Mars. The mission’s supersonic parachute, 70.5 feet (21.5 meters) wide, was the largest ever deployed on Mars. This dramatically slowed the rover’s descent, which was eventually lowered to Jezero’s ground on cables by a rocket-powered celestial crane.

The rear hull and the parachute did their job well, as shown by the good health of Perseverance and Ingenuity. And early analyzes of the new photos from Ingenuity suggest that the landing gear held up very well despite the enormous stresses it experienced. (The back shell is in pieces, but that’s not surprising given that it hit the Martian surface at around 78 mph, or 126 km/h, on the day of landing.)

For example, “The rear hull’s protective coating appears to have remained intact upon entering Mars’ atmosphere. Many of the 80 high-strength suspension lines connecting the rear hull to the parachute are visible and also appear intact” , JPL officials wrote in the same statement.

And, although only a third of the chute is visible in Ingenuity images, “the canopy shows no signs of damage from supersonic airflow during inflation,” JPL officials added in the statement. . “Several weeks of analysis will be needed for a more definitive verdict.”

During the April 19 flight, which lasted 159 seconds, Ingenuity took 10 photos of the rear shell and parachute from different angles. The helicopter traveled a total of 1,181 feet (360 meters) on the sortie, flying at an altitude of 26 feet (8 m), JPL officials said.

Wide view of the parachute and rear hull that helped NASA’s Perseverance rover and Ingenuity helicopter land safely in February 2021. Ingenuity captured this photo during a flight on April 19, 2022. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

“To get the photos we needed, Ingenuity did a lot of maneuvers, but we were confident because there were some tricky maneuvers on flights 10, 12 and 13,” Ingenuity chief pilot Håvard Grip told the JPL, in the same press release.

The flight was Ingenuity’s 26th on the Red Planet, and it happened on the first birthday of its first historic Martian outing.

Ingenuity is a technology demonstration, originally tasked with a five-flight mission designed to show that aerial exploration is possible on Mars. The rotorcraft is now operating on an extended mission, pushing the boundaries of Red Planet flight and serving as a scout for life hunting and Perseverance sample collection.

Perseverance recently reached the remains of a river delta that existed on Jezero soil billions of years ago. The rover team is excited to study and sample the region, which may contain evidence of the Red Planet’s ancient life. And Ingenuity, which isn’t quite there yet, will be a big part of that effort.

“Upon reaching the delta, Ingenuity’s first orders may be to help determine which of the two dry river channels Perseverance should climb to reach the top of the delta,” JPL officials wrote in the statement.

“In addition to aiding route planning, the data provided by the helicopter will help the Perseverance team assess potential science targets,” they added. “Ingenuity can even be called upon to image geological features too far away for the rover to reach or to spot landing zones and sites on the surface where sample caches could be deposited for the Mars Sample program. Return.”

Mike Wall is the author of “The low(Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for extraterrestrial life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on twitter @Spacedotcom Or on Facebook.

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