The images could help NASA safely land upcoming missions and even astronauts on Mars in the future.

Ultimate Scout

NASA’s Mars Ingenuity helicopter has gone far and beyond its original task of completing five flights on the surface of the Red Planet.

During the flight, which took place last week, the four pound helicopter spotted the parachute and backshell that protected it and the Perseverance rover during their treacherous reentry in February 2021.

“Perseverance had the best-documented Mars landing in history, with cameras showing everything from parachute inflation to touchdown,” said Ian Clark, Mars Sample Return ascent phase lead at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab, in a statement. “But 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,” he added. “And if not, the pictures are still phenomenal and inspiring.”

Vantage Point

Ingenuity’s latest trip, its 26th in just over a year, goes to prove how aerial photography could revolutionize off-planet exploration, or even improve NASA’s chances of safely landing upcoming return sample missions — not to mention astronauts — on the Martian surface.

Images taken by the drone show the remains scattered over an entire area. The debris field on the surface of another planet — apart from looking cool as hell — could also be used to inform how to safely land NASA’s next Mars lander.

The backshell, for instance, shows that it still has its protective white coating. Suspension lines connecting it to the parachute also are seemingly still intact, according to NASA.

Ingenuity’s team is now ready to send the helicopter over a much more hilly region of the Jezero Crater, a region believed to be an ancient river delta. One possible option is to send the helicopter to the top of the delta, possibly giving us never seen before views of the surrounding region.

The tenacious copter could even be used to scout for potential landing sites for NASA’s upcoming Mars Sample Return mission.

READ MORE: NASA’s Mars Helicopter Spots Gear That Helped Perseverance Rover Land [NASA]

More on Ingenuity: Mars Helicopter Flies Over NASA Wreckage


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