NASA has spotted a "foreign object" attached to the leg of the Ingenuity Helicopter as it lifted off from the surface of Mars.
Ingenuity, which is exploring the Jezero crater on Mars with its companion rover Perseverance, has encountered –or has been encountered by– a strange, as of a yet unexplained object that somehow got attached to the small helicopter’s leg. Engineers spotted the unusual occurrence on camera during Ingenuity’s 33rd flight over the Red Planet in late September. They noted that footage showed some sort of trash or debris flying stuck on the helicopter’s leg, bearing a strange appearance to a piece of candy foil.
The object, which NASA has only identified as “foreign object debris,” was clearly visible from the Mars helicopter’s navigational camera and only for a portion of its 33rd flight over the reddish surface of the red planet. Images from the mission’s navigation camera show that, eventually, whatever was attached to the craft became detached, eventually landing on the surface of the red planet. It is worth mentioning that the foreign object did not impact the flight of the helicopter, which shortly after landed on the Martian surface. According to the flight telemetry and post-flight search and transfer, the vehicle appears to be undamaged. (You can see the RAW images of the flight here)
As part of the Ingenuity and Perseverance mission, the Ingenuity and Perseverance teams are investigating the source of debris, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory officials wrote in a statement. The Ingenuity helicopter has already exceeded all expectations after its successful thirty-third flight. The miniature helicopter is the first flying vehicle to south across Martian skies and was only meant to perform five successful lift-offs. Now, Ingenuity is about to break its initially set record by a mark of seven times. Since NASA plans to use helicopters for a future sample return mission on Mars, the agency is trying to test Ingenuity as much as possible.
In addition, Perseverance is doing an excellent job at not only snapping detailed photographs of the Martian surface but by collecting samples of Martian soil that will be returned for further studies on Earth in the near future. It is also noteworthy to mention that the Perseverance Rover has encountered a fair amount of strange objects while exploring the Martian surface. Earlier this year, we wrote about a strange spaghetti-like artifact the rover photographed sitting just in front of it. In a photo session that followed, the object had disappeared.