(ORDO NEWS) — You may remember that earlier this month we reported that the Perseverance rover finally spotted its parachute and rear shell in the distance. This is the equipment that brought the rover safely to the surface of Mars on February 18, 2021.
But now, the incredible Ingenuity helicopter took the best pictures of these items as it hovered in the Martian air on its 26th flight.
And what a mess! The poor rear hull fell to the surface, shattered into pieces.
NASA reported that the conch – a white, broken saucer-like flying saucer – hit the surface at 126 km/h/78 mph, as planned from the start.
The photos also show the parachute, as well as 80 high-strength suspension lines connecting the shell to the parachute.
This parachute was the largest ever deployed on Mars (Perseverance is the largest rover to date). The orange and white parachute measures 21.5 meters (70.5 feet) wide.
These items were necessary for the safe descent of Perseverance to the surface as part of the entry, descent and landing (EDL) to Mars, otherwise known as the “Seven Minutes of Terror”.
During those seven minutes, the rover lander enters the Martian atmosphere at nearly 20,000 km/h (12,500 mph), experiencing extreme gravitational forces and high temperatures.
Thanks to atmospheric drag (and the use of small thrusters to keep the rover on target), the heat shield-covered rear housing slows the spacecraft down to less than 1,600 km/h (1,000 mph).
At this point, the supersonic parachute can be deployed. The parachute slows the Earth craft enough to eject the shell and parachute (at an altitude of about 2.1 km 1.3 miles), allowing a hovering rocket stage called the Sky Crane to gently lower the rover to the surface.
These seven minutes pass quickly and stressfully, because everything should happen automatically, without the participation of engineers on Earth.
NASA engineers love to see these items – even in broken condition – because it can give them information about how well these pieces of equipment performed, providing valuable insights for future missions.
The 26th flight of Ingenuity, which took place on April 19, 2022, allowed the engineers to see the perspective they were counting on. A total of 10 aerial shots of the debris field were taken by Ingenuity.
One of the planned missions that will benefit the most from these images is the future Mars Sample Return Lander, which is part of a multi-mission campaign in which Perseverance will return samples of Martian rocks, atmosphere and sediment to Earth for detailed analysis.
The engineers on this mission actually approached the Ingenuity team to provide these images.
“NASA has expanded the capabilities of Ingenuity flight to perform groundbreaking missions like this one,” said Teddy Tzanetos, Ingenuity team leader at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in a press release.
Every time we’re in the air, Ingenuity opens up new possibilities and offers perspectives that no previous planetary mission has been able to achieve.”
The Mars Sample Return reconnaissance request is a perfect example of the usefulness of aerial platforms on Mars.”
NASA said it would take several weeks of analysis to reach a final verdict.
Perseverance had the most documented Mars landing in history, with cameras showing everything from parachute inflation to landing,” said JPL’s Ian Clark, former Perseverance systems engineer and now Mars Sample Return ascent stage leader. .
“But the Ingenuity images offer a different perspective. If they either confirm that our systems worked the way we think they did, or provide just one set of engineering information that we can use to plan a return to Mars, that would be amazing. And if no, the pictures will still be phenomenal and inspiring.”
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