‘Otherworldly’ images captured by a NASA helicopter appear to show a scene straight out of a science fiction film.
The extraordinary images were captured by NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter, which celebrated its 26th flight to the Red Planet and its one-year anniversary of its first flight on 19 April.
Aptly dubbed the ‘marscopter’, the vehicle was originally designed to fly just five times, but has since enjoyed an extensive career travelling around space.
However, rather than being the photos being linked to aliens, the wreckage is actually the remains of the landing equipment used when the vehicle landed on Mars with the Perseverance rover.
Likened to the size of a car, Ingenuity had a parachute and cone-shaped back shell to protect it during its descent towards the unearthly surface.
Released by NASA, the striking coloured pictures show the equipment resting on Mars in incredible detail.
Speaking to the NY Times, Ian Clark, an engineer who worked on Perseverance’s parachute system, said of the photographs: “There's definitely a sci-fi element to it. It exudes otherworldly, doesn't it?”
He continued: “They say a picture's worth 1,000 words, but it's also worth an infinite amount of engineering understanding.”
Tasked with entry, descent and landing on Mars, the vehicles are subject to gravitational forces, high temperatures and other extremes that come with entering Mars’ atmosphere at nearly 12,500 mph.
Therefore, the whole ordeal is incredibly stressful for the hopeful engineers back on Earth.
According to NASA, the crystal-clear photographs could help to ensure safer landings for future spacecraft, such as the Mars Sample Return Lander, which is part of a mission that would bring Perseverance’s samples back to Earth for detailed analysis by science boffins.
“Perseverance had the best-documented Mars landing in history, with cameras showing everything from parachute inflation to touchdown,” Clark said.
“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.
“And if not, the pictures are still phenomenal and inspiring.”
Teddy Tzanetos, Ingenuity's team lead at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, said: “NASA extended Ingenuity flight operations to perform pioneering flights such as this.
“Every time we're airborne, Ingenuity covers new ground and offers a perspective no previous planetary mission could achieve.”
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