Mars Ingenuity helicopter has captured rare images of the wreckage from the Perseverance rover landing on the Martian surface that could provide valuable insights for future missions. Launched in 2020, the Perseverance rover successfully landed on the Red Planet in 2021, carrying the Ingenuity helicopter onboard. The helicopter has now clicked 10 aerial colour images of both the parachute that helped the Perseverance rover land on Mars and the cone-shaped backshell that protected the rover in deep space and during its fiery descent toward the Martian surface on February 18, 2021. "Every time we're airborne, Ingenuity covers new ground and offers a perspective no previous planetary mission could achieve. Mars Sample Return's reconnaissance request is a perfect example of the utility of aerial platforms on Mars," said Teddy Tzanetos, Ingenuity's team lead at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California.
The images have the potential to help ensure safer landings for future spacecraft such as the Mars Sample Return Lander, NASA said in a statement. "Ingenuity's images offer a different vantage point. If they either reinforce that our systems worked as we think they worked or provide even one dataset of engineering information we can use for Mars Sample Return planning, it will be amazing. And if not, the pictures are still phenomenal and inspiring," said JPL's Ian Clark, who is Mars Sample Return ascent phase lead. The backshell's protective coating appears to have remained intact during Mars atmospheric entry. Many of the 80 high-strength suspension lines connecting the backshell to the parachute are visible and also appear intact in the images. NASA said that several weeks of analysis will be needed for a more final verdict. A key objective for Perseverance's mission on Mars is astrobiology, including the search for signs of ancient microbial life.