A parachute and the cone-shaped backshell that protected the rover in space, as well as during its fiery descent toward the Martian surface, was seen in incredible detail
When it makes its way back down, the rover will then collect some of these specimens from the Jezero Crater and leave the samples at the base of the delta to be retrieved by future missions.
The US space agency wants these rocks to be brought back to Earth in the 2030s so they can undergo detailed analysis.
Scientists hope that, as well as providing answers about potential ancient life on the Red Planet, they will also reveal more about Mars’ climate and how it has evolved.
NASA said Ingenuity’s images of the wrecked landing gear had the potential to help ensure safer landings for future spacecraft such as the Mars Sample Return Lander.
‘Perseverance had the best-documented Mars landing in history, with cameras showing everything from parachute inflation to touchdown,’ said Ian Clark, a former Perseverance systems engineer who now leads the effort to haul Martian samples back to Earth at JPL in Southern California.
Nasa’s Perseverance rover (pictured) has reached a key moment in its search for evidence of past life on Mars. The car-sized robot will today begin climbing up an ancient delta to look for sampling sites that might contain ancient microbes and organics
Scientists hope that as well as providing answers about potential ancient life on the Red Planet, they will also reveal more about Mars’ climate and how it has evolved
‘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.’
In the images of the upright backshell and the debris field that resulted from it impacting the surface at about 78 mph (126 kph), the backshell’s protective coating appears to have remained intact during Mars atmospheric entry.
Many of the 80 high-strength suspension lines connecting the backshell to the parachute are visible and also appear intact.
Spread out and covered in dust, only about a third of the orange-and-white parachute – at 70.5 feet (21.5 meters) wide, it was the biggest ever deployed on Mars – can be seen, but the canopy shows no signs of damage from the supersonic airflow during inflation.
NASA MARS 2020: PERSEVERANCE ROVER AND INGENUITY HELICOPTER ARE SEARCHING FOR LIFE ON THE RED PLANET
NASA’s Mars 2020 mission was launched to search for signs of ancient life on the Red Planet in a bid to help scientists better understand how life evolved on Earth in the earliest years of the evolution of the solar system.
Named Perseverance, the main car-sized rover is exploring an ancient river delta within the Jezero Crater, which was once filled with a 1,600ft deep lake.
It is believed that the region hosted microbial life some 3.5 to 3.9 billion years ago and the rover will examine soil samples to hunt for evidence of the life.
Nasa’s Mars 2020 rover (artist’s impression) is searching for signs of ancient life on Mars in a bid to help scientists better understand how life evolved on our own planet
The $2.5 billion (£1.95 billion) Mars 2020 spaceship launched on July 30 with the rover and helicopter inside – and landed successfully on February 18, 2021.
Perseverance landed inside the crater and will slowly collect samples that will eventually be returned to Earth for further analysis.
A second mission will fly to the planet and return the samples, perhaps by the later 2020s in partnership with the European Space Agency.
This concept art shows the Mars 2020 rover landing on the red planet via NASA’s ‘sky-crane’ system