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NASA’s Mars helicopter finds 'otherworldly' wreckage on planet's surface

NASA’s Mars helicopter finds 'otherworldly' wreckage on planet's surface

These amazing images look like something from sci-fi.

When you start sending more and more missions to Mars, you'd better believe that they'll start leaving a mark on the planet - as demonstrated by amazing photos from one of our most recent probes.

NASA currently has a helicopter drone called Ingenuity flying around Mars observing the planet and taking vital measurements and observations, but back in early 2022 it came across something to make any sci-fi fan's heart skip a beat.

It sent back a photo to Earth of what looks for all the world like the crashed wreckage of a flying saucer, an old-school UFO that could change everything about what we know of our galaxy.

That is, until it was almost immediately confirmed by NASA and the Ingenuity team that they knew exactly what they were looking at.

The wreckage is, in fact, part of the landing capsule of the Perseverance rover that NASA sent to Mars in 2021, and once you know this it all starts to make sense.

NASA's 'Marscopter' came across mysterious debris on Mar's surface / NASA/JPL-Caltech
NASA's 'Marscopter' came across mysterious debris on Mar's surface / NASA/JPL-Caltech

The photos show the top half of the landing capsule pancaked onto the Martian rock, around 15 feet in diameter and its supersonic parachute muddied behind it.

Thankfully, though, NASA's team was indeed a big fan of the photos, as evidence by one of them, Ian Clark, who worked on the Perseverance's parachute system and therefore has every reason to feel some pride at the wreckage, which had served its purpose well.

Clark said: "There's definitely a sci-fi element to it. It exudes otherworldly, doesn't it? They say a picture's worth 1,000 words, but it's also worth an infinite amount of engineering understanding."

As it happens, Perseverance and Ingenuity actually launched for Mars together, hitting the Martian atmosphere at a staggering 12,500 mph before slowing down for landing.

Thanks to a bevvy of onboard cameras, Clark explained: "Perseverance had the best-documented Mars landing in history, with cameras showing everything from parachute inflation to touchdown. But Ingenuity's images offer a different vantage point."


The best part of these photos is that there's probably more to learn from them - the absolute worst case is that they're part of inspiring a new generation of researchers and potential astronauts, which is already pretty good.

It's possible that they'll help us learn lessons about the landing, though, as Clark said: "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."

So, even when a rover or helicopter finds the crash of a previous mission, that can still end up being a good and useful discovery - especially if the crash is actually from its own arrival!

Featured Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech