NASA boffins baffled as Mars helicopter takes off with something dangling from it

Claire Reid

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NASA boffins baffled as Mars helicopter takes off with something dangling from it

Featured Image Credit: Naeblys / Alamy Stock Photo / @nasajpl / Twitter

A small piece of mysterious space debris hooked itself onto the foot of NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter during its latest aerial flight around Mars. 

The Ingenuity Mars Helicopter was sent up to the Red Planet on the Perseverance rover and is designed to ‘test powered, controlled flight on another world for the first time’. 

It completed its first ever flight in April last year - taking off, climbing to around 10 feet (3 meters) above the surface of Mars, briefly hovering in the air before completing a turn and landing. 

Now fast forward 16 or so months, and Ingenuity has had more than 30 successful flights on Mars.

However, while it was on its 33rd flight on September 24, 2022, a small piece of foreign object debris (or FOD) was spotted in footage recorded and sent back to the space agency. You can see catch a glimpse of the FOD here:

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In the clip, shared by NASA, a small piece of what looks to be cloth or thin plastic material can be seen fluttering away while attached to one of Ingenuity’s legs. It eventually appears to fall away from the leg and drift off. 

Although the experts aren’t aware of exactly what the debris was, NASA confirmed that it hadn’t impacted Ingenuity’s safe landing back onto solid ground on Mars. 

In a post on Twitter, NASA said: “There's something on your foot, Mars Helicopter! 

“We’re looking into a bit of debris that ended up on Ingenuity's foot during its latest aerial commute.

"As shown in the GIF, it eventually came off and did not impact a successful Flight 33."

On its website, NASA wrote: “The FOD is seen attached to one of the rotorcraft's landing legs, then drifting away.”

The object can be seen in the top right here. Credit: NASA
The object can be seen in the top right here. Credit: NASA

As you can imagine, the mysterious bit of space junk has prompted quite a reaction on social media, with many people attempting to guess what it could be. 

One person suggested: “Looks like cloth from the landing parachute was carried over by wind. Seems unlikely but I wouldn't know what else would be made of that material.”

Another wrote: “Crikey ... that almost looks organic.”

And a less-than-impressed Twitter user commented: “Humans throwing what looks like plastic trash on even Mars now. Classic.”

While someone else joked: “What could it be? A bit of skin shed by an alien...?” 

If you have a story you want to tell, send it to UNILAD via [email protected] 

Topics: News, NASA, Space, US News

Claire Reid
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