April 13, 2024

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An ingenious helicopter takes pictures of the debris field on Mars

An ingenious helicopter takes pictures of the debris field on Mars

During its one-year flight on April 19, the small helicopter captured images of the striped parachute used during the Perseverance landing – often referred to as “7 Minutes of Terror” because it occurs faster than radio signals reach Earth from Mars – on February 18, 2021. Spotted Also the cone-shaped backing that helped protect the rover and creativity on its journey from Earth to Mars and during its fiery descent to the surface of Mars.

Engineers working on the Mars Sample Return Program, an ambitious, multi-mission process to return Mars samples collected by Perseverance to Earth by 2030, asked if Creativity could collect these images during its 26th voyage.

Studying the components that allowed for a safe landing could help them prepare for future missions to the Red Planet that will require landing and even launching from the surface of Mars for the first time.

“NASA has expanded its innovation flight operations to perform groundbreaking flights like these,” Teddy Zanitos, Ingenuity Team Leader at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., said in a statement.

“Every time we airlift, Ingenuity covers new ground and offers a perspective that a previous planetary mission couldn’t achieve. The reconnaissance order for a Mars sample return is an excellent example of the utility of aerial platforms on Mars.”

During entry, descent and landing, the spacecraft experiences extreme temperatures and gravitational forces as it plunges into the Martian atmosphere at 12,500 miles per hour (20,000 kilometers per hour).

Previously, we’ve only seen images of discarded landing gear from the rover’s perspective, such as one taken by Perseverance showing the parachute and rear cover from a distance. Aerial images, first captured by Ingenuity from 26 feet (8 meters) in the air, provide more detail.

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“Perseverance was the best-documented Mars landing in history, with cameras showing everything from parachute inflation to landing,” Ian Clark, a former Perseverance Systems engineer and current lead ascent phase of the Mars sample return at JPL, said in a statement.

“But the Ingenuity images offer a different viewpoint. If they reinforce that our systems worked as we think they did or provide a single data set of engineering information that we can use to plan the return of a Mars sample, that would be amazing. If not, the images are still amazing and inspiring. “.

The back shell and its debris field can be seen from the Ingenuity site above the landing site.

The rear shell can be seen among the debris field it created after hitting the surface of Mars while moving at 78 miles per hour (126 kilometers per hour). But the protective shell of the rear hood appears to be intact, as are the eighty suspension lines connecting it to the canopy.

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The orange and white umbrella can be seen covered in dust, but the umbrella shows no damage. It was the largest parachute in use on Mars to date, 70.5 feet (21.5 meters) wide. The team will continue to analyze the images to determine if the canopy has undergone any changes over the next several weeks.

During the Ingenuity’s 26th flight, the helicopter flew a total of 1,181 feet (360 meters). So far, it has logged 49 minutes of total flight time and traveled 3.9 miles (6.3 kilometers) over the past year.

“To get the shots we needed, Ingenuity did a lot of maneuvers, but we were confident because there were complicated maneuvers on flights 10, 12 and 13,” said Havard Grip, JPL’s chief pilot, Ingenuity, in a statement. “We positioned our landing site well to depict the area of ​​interest of the Perseverance Science team on Flight 27, near the Sittah mountain range.”

Perseverance This photo of the rover's canopy in the distance was taken on April 6.

The helicopter and rover arrived at an ancient river delta where water once flowed into the Jezero Crater millions of years ago.

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The majestic delta rises more than 130 feet (40 meters) above the crater floor and is dotted with boulders, sand pockets, and jagged cliffs — and it could be the best place to look for signs of ancient life if it ever existed on Mars. .

Creativity has the critical task of surveying two dry river channels to see which one he must use perseverance to climb to the top of the delta. It can also share images of features that could become potential science targets for the rover.