On Mars, a unique type of “roller” rolls across the Martian plains.
These debris are not plants – they are pieces of debris from the entry, descent and landing (EDL) equipment from NASA Perseverance rover. Percy came across many of these remains, taking pictures of them so the engineers could study them.
During it boarding on February 18, 2021a number of hardware items reduced the spacecraft’s speed from 12,500 mph (20,000 km/h) when it first entered Martian atmosphere essentially down to zero miles per hour as he was gently brought to the surface by a sky crane. And all this happened in just seven minutes.
After the job was completed, the EDL equipment, such as the parachute, backshell, heat shield, and sky crane, were dropped from the Perseverance rover and crashed into Mars at some distance from the rover to avoid damaging it.
Over the past year and a half, the Perseverance team has identified and cataloged about half a dozen suspected EDL wrecks. The first fragment was discovered on April 16, 2022, when an unusually bright object was spotted in one of the Perseverance Mastcam-Z panoramic images. “The material was given a descriptive name: ‘bright material.’ At the time, no one knew what it was, but perhaps the rover will take a closer look at it as it ascends the delta in the coming weeks,” NASA wrote in blog post (opens in a new tab).
After several months, Perseverance reached a place in the delta called Hogwallow Flats. On June 12, 2022, he photographed a mysterious object believed to be a piece of multi-layer insulation (MLI) from a sky crane, made of either perforated aluminized kapton (PAK) or mylar, fluttering in the wind like a flag. In the same region, the rover also snapped a picture of a fast-moving tethered ball of “string-like material.” According to the task force, it could be dacron, a mesh used in thermal blankets.
Interestingly, Hogwallow Flats is more than 1.25 miles (two kilometers) away from the crash sites of the EDL Perseverance equipment. “Hogwall Flats appears to be a natural collection site for wind-blown EDL debris,” notes NASA.
Perseverance helicopter satellite Ingenuity got to know some of the wreckage of the EDL personally. On April 19, 2022, Ingenuity flew over the wreckage of Perseverance’s rear shell and parachute, taking high-resolution images of the wreckage.
Such fields of intentionally discarded debris are not uncommon on Mars, as landings on the Red Planet are usually pretty violent events. Both Opportunity and Curiosity the rovers also photographed what is believed to be their own EDL debris.
For now, safely landing spacecraft on Mars is the number one priority, but as we continue to place rovers on the planet, researchers will need to consider the consequences of such space debris. “Engineers designing EDL hardware for future missions will need to consider the impact (literally) of their designs on both Mars and mission requirements,” NASA said.
https://www.space.com/perseverance-mars-rover-photographs-entry-descent-landing-debris/ The Perseverance rover photographs the debris of its own landing