Observing some of the components that allowed the rover to safely reach the Martian surface could provide valuable information for future missions.
NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter recently examined both the parachute that helped the agency’s Perseverance rover land on Mars and the cone-shaped back shell that protected the rover in deep space and during of its fiery descent to the Martian surface on February 18, 2021. Mars Sample Return program asked if Ingenuity could provide that perspective. The result was 10 color aerial images taken on April 19 during Ingenuity Flight 26.
“NASA has expanded Ingenuity’s flight operations to perform pioneering flights like this,” said Teddy Tzanetos, Ingenuity team leader at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. “Each time we are airborne, Ingenuity covers new ground and provides a perspective that no previous planetary mission could reach. The Mars Sample Return reconnaissance application is a perfect example of the utility of aerial platforms on March.
Entering, descending and landing on Mars is fast and stressful, not only for the engineers back on Earth, but also for the vehicle which experiences the gravitational forces, high temperatures and other extremes that come with the entered Mars’ atmosphere at nearly 12,500 mph (20,000 km/h). The parachute and rear hull were previously imaged remotely by the Perseverance rover.
Rear hull of the Rovers seen from the sky: This image of Perseverance’s rear hull and parachute was collected by NASA’s Ingenuity Mars helicopter during its 26th flight on April 19, 2022. Images obtained during the flight can provide insight into component performance during flight. entry, descent and landing of the rover on February 18. , 2021. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech. Download picture ›
But those collected by the rotorcraft (from an aerial and closer point of view) provide more details. The images have the potential to help ensure safer landings for future spacecraft such as the Mars Sample Return Landerwhich is part of a multi-mission campaign that would bring Perseverance’s Martian rock, atmosphere, and sediment samples back to Earth for detailed analysis.
“Perseverance had the the best-documented Mars landing in history, with cameras showing everything from parachute inflation to landing,” said JPL’s Ian Clark, a former Perseverance systems engineer and now lead for the ascent phase of Mars Sample Return. “But Ingenuity’s images offer a different perspective. If they reinforce that our systems worked the way we think they did or provide even a data set of technical information that we can use for planning the return of samples to Mars, that will be amazing. And otherwise, the images are always phenomenal and inspiring.
In images of the rear hull upright and the debris field resulting from its impact on the surface at approximately 78 mph (126 km/h), the rear hull’s protective coating appears to have remained intact upon entry into the atmosphere of Mars. Many of the 80 high strength lines connecting the rear shell to the parachute are visible and also appear intact. Spread out and covered in dust, only about a third of the orange and white parachute – at 70.5 feet (21.5 meters) wide, it was the largest ever deployed on Mars – can be seen, but the canopy only shows no signs of damage from supersonic airflow during inflation. Several weeks of analysis will be necessary for a more definitive verdict.
Rover landing gear seen from the air by Mars Helicopter: This image of the rear hull and supersonic parachute of NASA’s Perseverance rover was captured by the agency’s Ingenuity Mars helicopter during its 26th flight to Mars on April 19, 2022. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech. Download picture ›
Flight 26 maneuvers
Ingenuity’s 159-second flight began at 11:37 a.m. local March time on April 19, the first anniversary of its first flight. Flying 26 feet (8 meters) above the ground, Ingenuity traveled 630 feet (192 meters) to the southeast and took her first shot. The rotorcraft then headed southwest and then northwest, taking images at pre-planned locations along the route. Once he collected 10 images in his flash memory, Ingenuity headed west 246 feet (75 meters) and landed. Total distance traveled: 1,181 feet (360 meters). With the completion of Flight 26, the rotorcraft logged over 49 minutes aloft and traveled 3.9 miles (6.2 kilometers).
“To get the photos we needed, Ingenuity did a lot of maneuvers, but we were confident because there were some tricky maneuvers on flights 10, 12 and 13,” Ingenuity chief pilot Håvard Grip told the JPL. “Our landing spot prepared us well to image an area of interest for the Perseverance science team on Flight 27, near the ridge of ‘Séítah’.”
the new area of activity in the dry river delta of Jezero Crater marks a dramatic break from the modest, relatively flat terrain that Ingenuity had flown over since its first flight. Miles wide, the fan-shaped delta formed where an ancient river flowed into the lake that once filled Jezero Crater. Rising more than 40 meters above the crater floor and filled with jagged cliffs, sloping surfaces, jutting rocks and sand-filled pockets, the delta promises to hold many geological revelations – perhaps even proof that microscopic life existed on Mars billions of years ago.
Upon reaching the delta, Ingenuity’s first orders may be to help determine which of the two dry river channels Perseverance must climb to reach the top of the delta. In addition to aiding in route planning, the data provided by the helicopter will help the Perseverance team assess potential scientific targets. Ingenuity may even be called upon to image geologic features too far away for the rover to reach or to spot landing zones and sites on the surface where caches of samples could be deposited for the rover. Mars Sample Return program.
Learn more about ingenuity
The Ingenuity Mars helicopter was built by JPL, which also manages the project for NASA headquarters. It is supported by NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. NASA Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley, California and NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia provided extensive flight performance analysis and technical assistance during Ingenuity’s development. AeroVironment Inc., Qualcomm and SolAero also provided design assistance and major vehicle components. Lockheed Space designed and manufactured the Mars Helicopter Delivery System.
At NASA Headquarters, Dave Lavery is the program manager for the Ingenuity Mars helicopter.
Learn more about perseverance
A key objective of the Perseverance mission to Mars is astrobiology, including looking for signs of ancient microbial life. The rover will characterize the planet’s past geology and climate, pave the way for human exploration of the Red Planet, and be the first mission to collect and cache Martian rock and regolith (broken rock and dust).
Subsequent NASA missions, in cooperation with the ESA (European Space Agency), would send spacecraft to Mars to collect these sealed samples from the surface and return them to Earth for further analysis.
The Mars 2020 Perseverance mission is part of NASA’s Moon to Mars exploration approach, which includes Artemis Moon missions that will help prepare for human exploration of the Red Planet.
JPL, which is managed for NASA by Caltech in Pasadena, Calif., built and manages operations of the Perseverance rover.
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