Nasa rover’s new images show agency’s space junk on Mars

Debris is piece of thermal blanket that may have come from rover’s descent onto Mars

NASA’s Mars Helicopter Spots Wreckage of Rover Landing Gear

Nasa has released new images taken by its Perseverance Mars rover that show the agency’s space junk caught in a rock on the surface of the Red Planet.

The debris in question may have come off during the rover’s descent down the Martian atmosphere on 18 February 2021, the American space agency suspects.

It is a piece of thermal blanket that the agency thinks may have come from the rover’s descent stage, “the rocket-powered jet pack that set me down on landing day back in 2021”, Nasa tweeted.

It is a “surprise finding” according to Nasa since the rover’s actual descent happened about 2km away.

The shiny foil, the American space agency said, is part of a thermal blanket material used to control temperatures during the rover’s fiery descent onto the Red Planet.

Landing on Mars is a big challenge for any mission as vehicles need to endure extreme gravitational forces, as well as high temperatures, and pressure changes during their entry and descent stages through the Martian atmosphere at nearly 20,000kph.

“Did this piece land here after that, or was it blown here by the wind?” Nasa tweeted, referring to the newly discovered debris.

The latest discovery comes after the agency’s Ingenuity Mars helicopter revealed a set of images in April of debris from the cone-shaped backshell that protected the robotic explorer during its fiery descent.

Aerial images taken by the helicopter suggested the protective coating of the blackshell had remained intact during the lander’s atmospheric entry.

“There’s definitely a sci-fi element to it. It exudes otherworldly, doesn’t it?” Ian Clark from Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), had told The New York Times following this finding.

“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,” Dr Clark had said.

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