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Mars helicopter Ingenuity’s historic 1st flights shed light on Martian dust dynamics

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Mars helicopter Ingenuity’s historic 1st flights shed light on Martian dust dynamics

By Sharmila Kuthunur

 published about 8 hours ago

‘There’s a reason that helicopter pilots on Earth prefer to land on helipads.’

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A photograph taken by the Perseverance rover of the Ingenuity helicopter on the surface of Mars in April 2021, just after the rover deployed the chopper.

A photograph taken by the Perseverance rover of the Ingenuity helicopter on the surface of Mars in April 2021, just after the rover deployed the chopper. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

In April 2021, a camera on NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover recorded its tiny robotic cousin Ingenuity lifting off on the Red Planet. 

Foraying 10 feet (3 meters) into the Martian sky, the 4-pound (1.8 kilograms) Ingenuity helicopter made history that day, conducting the first powered flight on another world. 

Using data from that and some of Ingenuity’s other early sorties, scientists have now marked a first of their own: A comprehensive study of Mars dust dynamics — an important but elusive process that researchers have long struggled to understand, thanks to a lack of data on how dust behaves on the Red Planet.

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“Space is a data-poor environment,” study co-author Jason Rabinovitch, a professor at Stevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey, said in a statement(opens in new tab). “It’s hard to send videos and images back to Earth, so we have to work with what we can get.”

Related: Mars rover Perseverance spots Ingenuity helicopter resting on sand dune (photo)

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