Mars helicopter Ingenuity flew over the area where some critical components for the landing of Mars rover Perseverance crashed.

Where Mars helicopter Ingenuity normally only spots Mars ground and boulders during its flights, that was different during the 26th flight. This time, at the request of NASA engineers, the helicopter flew over a place that humans have changed forever. Namely: the place where the components so important for the landing of Mars rover Perseverance crashed. This concerns the so-calledback shell‘ and giant parachute.

Beautiful images

The parachute was previously captured from a distance by Mars rover Perseverance. But the images that Ingenuity now sees from the sky from the parachute and back shell made are much more detailed.

Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

back shell

In the images we first see the battered back shell† This cone-shaped part is somewhat reminiscent of a turtle’s shell. Perseverance and Ingenuity (who flew with the rover) were safely hidden under this shield during the long journey to Mars and most of the landing. But the back shell served not only to protect the rover and helicopter; the shield also housed some components crucial for a safe landing on Mars, including the parachute.

That parachute was deployed four minutes after the rover and helicopter entered the Martian atmosphere. Almost two minutes later, Perseverance and Ingenuity broke free from the back shell, after which they landed safely on Mars – using a jetpack equipped with a hoist system (see also the image below). From the moment the rover – with the Mars helicopter on board – broke away from the back shellwas both those back shell as the parachute from which it hung, had in fact become obsolete. And as the rover and helicopter made a soft landing, starting a new era in Mars exploration, the back shell and parachute down an inglorious end.

The landing of Perseverance and Ingenuity in the picture. Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

violent ending

And that end came with violence, the images of Ingenuity show; the back shell is badly damaged and around it are a lot of debris. That’s not so crazy; the back shell hit the Martian surface at a speed of about 126 kilometers per hour, according to the American space agency – proud owner of Perseverance and Ingenuity.


In addition to the back shell The striped parachute has also been immortalized from the air by Ingenuity. That parachute may seem a bit small, but looks can be deceiving; only a third of the parachute – at more than 21 meters wide, the largest ever deployed on Mars – is visible because it is folded in half and also covered with Martian dust. The photos also show a large part of the 80(!) cables that connect the parachute to the back shell connect, see.

Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

Valuable images

As mentioned, the images are made on request; engineers involved in the Mars Sample Returnmission came up with the idea of ​​flying Ingenuity over this area. Based on the images, they hope to learn more about how the landing went exactly and how the different components withstood that landing. That information could come in handy during future missions to Mars, such as those Mars Sample Returnmission, intended to pick up Mars monsters (collected by Perseverance) and return them to Earth.

“Perseverance captured the best-recorded Mars landing in history,” said engineer Ian Clark, previously involved with the Perseverance mission and now on the team that created the Mars Sample Returnmission is underway. “With cameras that showed everything from unfolding the parachute to the actual landing. But Ingenuity’s images show it from a different point of view. If they reinforce the idea that the systems worked the way we think they worked or can provide some additional information that will help when planning the Mars Sample Returnmission then that’s fantastic. And if they don’t, the images are still phenomenal and inspiring.”

Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

The images are currently being further analyzed, but at first glance engineers can already draw some conclusions. For example, it is noticeable that the protective coating on the back shell is still intact. In addition, many of the cables with which the back shell dangling from the parachute, still to be whole. And the parachute does not appear to have been damaged during the landing, as far as can be seen now. However, the final findings based on the photos could take several weeks, NASA said.

As mentioned, Ingenuity made the images during his 26th flight. The helicopter first climbed to a height of eight meters and then headed south-east, where – after traveling 192 meters – it took the first photo. The helicopter then set course to the southwest and northwest to enable it to take pictures from multiple angles. In total, the helicopter flew 360 meters and took ten photos. In total, during the 26 flights, the helicopter has now spent more than 49 minutes in the Martian air, covering about 6.2 kilometers. Quite an achievement; prior to the launch of Perseverance and Ingenuity, no one knew if a helicopter could stay in the air at all in the thin atmosphere of Mars. To find out, Ingenuity was launched and it was hoped that – if it could stay in the air – it could make at least five flights. But the helicopter performed above expectations and is now preparing for its 27th flight. During that flight, the helicopter will explore the best route Mars rover Perseverance can take to explore a nearby delta.