Ingenuity kicks up much more dust on Mars than if it flew on Earth


The Ingenuity helicopter on Mars, the first motor-controlled aircraft on another world, lifts in its flights many times more dust than an equivalent apparatus on Earth would generate.

Specifically, it is estimated that the Ingenuity lifted approximately a thousandth of its own mass (1.8 kilos) into dust every time it flew, According to the first real study of Martian dust dynamics based on the historic first helicopter flights on the Red Planet, paving the way for future alien missions with helicopters.

The work, which is reported in Journal of Geophysical Research: Planetscould serve as support for Mars Sample Return Program from NASA, which will recover samples collected by Perseverance, or to the dragonfly mission It will set course for Saturn’s largest moon Titan in 2027.

“There is a reason why helicopter pilots on Earth prefer to land on helipads,” he said. it’s a statement Jason Rabinovitch, study co-author and assistant professor at Stevens Institute of Technology. “When a helicopter lands in the desert, its downdraft can kick up enough dust to cause a zero visibility ‘blackout’, and Mars is indeed a great desert.”

Studying dust dynamics on another planet is not easy, Rabinovitch explains. “Space is a data-poor environment. It’s hard to send video and images back to Earth, so we have to work with what we can get.”

To overcome this challenge, Rabinovitch and his colleagues at JPL used advanced image processing techniques to extract information from six helicopter flights, all of them low-resolution videos captured by Perseverance. By identifying small variations between video frames and the light intensity of individual pixels, the researchers were able to calculate both the size and total mass of the dust clouds kicked up as Ingenuity lifted off. it glided, maneuvered and landed.

Research shows that, as predicted, dust is a major factor for alien helicopters.