In February of 2021, NASA successfully landed the Perseverance rover on Mars. The rover, and the Ingenuity helicopter that's part of it, were sent to the Red Planet to seek out past, and perhaps even current, signs of life, as well as to collect rock and other samples. This month, it found something exciting - metal wreckage.
Photos of the crash site were recently released and at first glance, they seem to show some kind of flying saucer crash, but it turns out that everything in the pictures was man-made. The wreckage is what is left of the protective shell that helped the rover land on Mars.
The descent to the planet is so dangerous that experts refer to it as "seven minutes of terror." A spacecraft moves through Mars' atmosphere at 12,000 miles an hour, reaching incredibly hot temperatures, then, there are only a handful of seconds for it to slow down to ensure for a safe and gentle landing. Because of this, many precautions need to be taken to keep the fragile payload safe, including the use of the outer shell as well as a parachute, which can still be seen in the photo.
The protective shell did its job well and it was actually the Ingenuity helicopter that took the photos.
By studying the pictures, scientists hope to get information that will help them prepare for future Mars missions, including one where they plan to bring rocks from the Red Planet back to Earth. What they noted from the images is that, surprisingly, the parachute doesn't seem to have any damage.
In a statement, Ian Clark of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory spoke more about the importance of the photos saying:
"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. 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."
Of course, there were some critics of what's shown in the pics. Vocal opponents took to Twitter to say things like, "Damn Earthlings, always leaving trash about," and, "We weren't satisfied with just trashing our own planet."
You can see more images from the wreckage here.