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The Ingenuity helicopter has captured a singular fowl’s-eye perspective of the gear that helped land the Perseverance rover on Mars.
Throughout its one-year anniversary flight on April 19, the little chopper took photographs of the striped parachute used throughout Perseverance’s touchdown – also known as “7 minutes of terror” as a result of it occurs sooner than radio alerts can attain Earth from Mars – on February 18, 2021. It additionally noticed the cone-shaped backshell that helped defend the rover and Ingenuity on the journey from Earth to Mars and through its fiery, plunging descent to the Martian floor.
The engineers engaged on the Mars Pattern Return program, an bold and multimission course of to return Martian samples collected by Perseverance to Earth by the 2030s, requested if Ingenuity might collect these photos throughout its twenty sixth flight.
Learning the parts that allowed for a secure touchdown will help them put together for future missions to the pink planet that may require touchdown and even launching from the Martian floor for the primary time.
“NASA prolonged Ingenuity flight operations to carry out pioneering flights akin to this,” stated Teddy Tzanetos, Ingenuity’s group lead at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, in a press release.
“Each time we’re airborne, Ingenuity covers new floor and affords a perspective no earlier planetary mission might obtain. Mars Pattern Return’s reconnaissance request is an ideal instance of the utility of aerial platforms on Mars.”
Throughout entry, descent and touchdown, the spacecraft faces scorching temperatures and gravitational forces because it plunges into the Martian ambiance at virtually 12,500 miles per hour (20,000 kilometers per hour).
Beforehand, we’ve solely seen photos of the discarded touchdown gear from a rover’s perspective, like a picture taken by Perseverance displaying the parachute and backshell from a distance. Aerial photos, captured for the primary time by Ingenuity from 26 toes (8 meters) within the air, present extra element.
“Perseverance had the best-documented Mars touchdown in historical past, with cameras displaying every thing from parachute inflation to landing,” stated Ian Clark, former Perseverance programs engineer and present Mars Pattern Return ascent section lead at JPL, in a press release.
“However Ingenuity’s photos provide a special vantage level. In the event that they both reinforce that our programs labored as we predict they labored or present even one dataset of engineering data we are able to use for Mars Pattern Return planning, will probably be wonderful. And if not, the images are nonetheless phenomenal and provoking.”
The backshell may be seen amongst a particles discipline it created after hitting the Martian floor whereas transferring at about 78 miles per hour (126 kilometers per hour). However the backshell’s protecting coating seems to be intact, as are the 80 suspension traces connecting it to the parachute.
The orange and white parachute may be seen, coated in mud, however the cover doesn’t present any injury. It was the most important parachute used on Mars up to now, at 70.5 toes (21.5 meters) huge. The group will proceed to investigate the pictures to find out if the parachute skilled any modifications over the following a number of weeks.
Throughout Ingenuity’s twenty sixth aerial tour, the chopper flew a complete of 1,181 toes (360 meters). To date, it has logged 49 minutes of whole flight time and traveled 3.9 miles (6.3 kilometers) over the previous yr.
“To get the pictures we wanted, Ingenuity did plenty of maneuvering, however we have been assured as a result of there was difficult maneuvering on flights 10, 12, and 13,” stated Håvard Grip, chief pilot of Ingenuity at JPL, in a press release. “Our touchdown spot set us up properly to picture an space of curiosity for the Perseverance science group on Flight 27, close to ‘Séítah’ ridge.”
The helicopter and rover have arrived at an historical river delta the place water as soon as flowed into Jezero Crater hundreds of thousands of years in the past.
The imposing delta rises greater than 130 toes (40 meters) above the crater ground and is riddled with boulders, pockets of sand and jagged cliffs – and it may very well be one of the best place to seek for indicators of historical life if it ever existed on Mars.
Ingenuity has the essential activity of surveying two dry river channels to see which one Perseverance ought to use to climb to the highest of the delta. It might additionally share photos of options that would turn into potential science targets for the rover.
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