Something weird is going on aboard a Martian aircraft. On a recent journey, the Ingenuity helicopter, which is exploring Jezero Crater with its rover companion Perseverance, got something attached to its foot. Engineers captured the debris on video during Ingenuity's 33rd trip above Mars in late September and noticed that footage revealed the debris shot off the little helicopter. (While it may resemble a cobweb or a Twinkie wrapper, we can be certain it is not aliens.) Footage from the mission's NavCam shows the debris organically descending back to the surface partway through the trip before Ingenuity landed safely on the Martian sands.
According to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, "all telemetry from the flight and a post-flight search and transfer are nominal and show no indication of vehicle damage." The Mars 2020 Ingenuity and Perseverance teams are attempting to determine the origins of the debris.
Ingenuity is well into a lengthy mission. The drone is the first to fly over Mars and was designed to fly five times. It is already on its way to exceeding that figure seven times over. NASA is putting Ingenuity to the test as much as possible, especially because the agency hopes to use Mars helicopters for a future sample return mission. Perseverance is on a long-term mission to collect the most promising materials for closer investigation on Earth, as scientists seek more clues about whether life existed on Mars in the past. Meanwhile, Ingenuity is serving as a scout for Perseverance as the rover explores an old river delta. Water on Mars is one of the most important topics of research as scientists continue to debate the planet's habitability.