On the Red Planet, debris from NASA’s Mars landings continues to raise some questions

Mars rover Perserverance and helicopter sidekick Ingenuity are investigating the Red Planet for clues of ancient life, but they’re also banging against a piece of their own landing gear.

Images acquired by the Ingenuity helicopter show a backshell and a discarded parachute 1km distant from the landing location of the Perseverance. When Perseverance arrived on Mars on February 18, 2021, several bits of EDL gear were thrown out into the planet’s surface. Findings of debris didn’t end there, according to a NASA blog post. Even after the parachutes were discovered, additional bits of EDL gear were discovered across the world.

On April 16, 2022, NASA discovered a bright object in a Mastcam-Z picture that had never been seen before. Unable to identify the “bright stuff,” Perseverance Rover returned a 360-degree Mastcam-Z view of the Hogwallow Flats Region, roughly 2 kilometres distant from where Perseverance Rover had crashed.

The EDL team was able to identify the light material as MLI, most likely from a skycrane, at that point in the investigation. Perforated Aluminized Kapton (PAK) or Mylar thermal blankets are used on the spaceship, and the material matched the pattern of the thermal blankets, which are constructed of PAK or Mylar.

Additional EDL debris, including as Dacron netting, often used in warm blankets, was discovered when more photos from the Hogwallow Flats location were generated.

It seemed that the riddle of what the things were had been solved, but the issue of how they had made it so far from the accident remained unanswered. Nasa speculates that this might be due to ejection from the impact, tiny bits being ejected by ballistics, or wind blowing pieces away.

Debris isn’t an issue at this point. It’s still possible that the team will continue to record objects when they are discovered. EDL debris is frequent in these excursions since it was detected at the Curiosity rover’s landing location.

Perseverance and future missions may be negatively impacted as a result of this.

Future missions will be able to spot this kind of trash more quickly because to improved camera technology, according to NASA.