Pioneer cover

From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.

Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.

The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.

He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.

Available everywhere for $3.99 (before discount) at amazon, Barnes & Noble, all ebook vendors, or direct from the ebook publisher, ebookit. And if you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.

A look at Ingenuity’s legs

Link here. This update, written by Bob Balaram, the helicopter’s chief engineer at JPL and Jeremy Tyler, senior aero/mechanical engineer at AeroVironment, outlines the engineering that went into building the helicopter’s legs in order to make sure they could withstand the somewhat hard landings required in the Martian environment.

To withstand these firm landings, Ingenuity is equipped with a cushy suspension system, [with a] distinctive open hoop structure at each corner of the fuselage where the landing legs attach. The lower half of this hoop is a titanium spring that can bend as much as 17 degrees to provide 3.5 inches of motion in the suspension, while the upper half is a soft non-alloyed aluminum flexure that serves as the damper or “shock absorber.” By plastically deforming and fatiguing as it absorbs energy, this flexure acts much like the crumple zone structure of a car chassis. However, unlike a car or the crumple-cushioned landing gear of the Apollo moon landers, Ingenuity’s titanium springs rebound after each impact to pull these aluminum dampers back into shape for the next landing.

The aluminum damper gets a little bit weaker with each cycle as cracks and creases develop. While it would eventually break after a few hundred hard landings, with only a few flights scheduled for this demonstration, that’s a problem we could only dream of having.

This is most likely the failure point that will end Ingenuity’s life, though at the present it is a bit in the future.

Also, the post reveals that JPL subcontracted much of the development of Ingenuity to this company.

AeroVironment designed and developed Ingenuity’s airframe and major subsystems, including its rotor, rotor blades, and hub and control mechanism hardware. The Simi Valley, California-based company also developed and built high-efficiency, lightweight propulsion motors, power electronics, landing gear, load-bearing structures and thermal enclosures for NASA/JPL’s avionics, sensors and software systems.

Good ol’ American capitalism does it again.


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  • Mark

    I wish that the mainstream western media would show some appreciation for the amazing technology that the US. freely shares with the world. Of course JPL is not going to give out the actual blueprints, but this description of Ingenuity and other articles about how it flies is a gift to mankind. Think about the many teenagers around the world will be inspired to go into science and engineering because of this. The media would also be justified in criticizing China’s lack of sharing. Is it because China and our media don’t want to admit to how much technology China has copied or outright stolen? What have they shared about their Mars Lander? What knowledge will they share from their future space stations and moon bases?

  • Jeff Wright

    I remember the Gossomer Condor/albatross-Helios/ERAST thing that came from that bunch.

  • pzatchok

    Again it seems a bit over engineered for some springy landing legs.

    I really should have been an engineer.

  • Lee Stevenson

    @Mark, while I disagree with nothing you have written above, there is a kind of contradiction with complaining about not all the data from these missions being released to the public, then complaining about China copying NASA. Just to knuckle down on my comments to wayne in a previous thread, the data obtained so far is no doubt being sifted thru, and very likely being used by the many undergraduates involved in this mission for their last step to becoming a recognised scientist. NASA is always condemned when it gets a bit excited and releases preliminary results, ( atmosphere of Venus, Martian meteorite, arsenic in DNA etc, etc..) , and gets condemned for sitting on data… Dammed if they do, dammed if they don’t. As long as they release the data, when studied, correlated, and put into understandable form I don’t see the problem. I can assure you that kids all around the world are inspired by the work of NASA… My lad (15 years old) has chosen a technical college for his further education partly because he would like to be an astronaut (rather than a cosmonaut or tychonaught.)

  • Darwin Teague

    For it’s last flight, they should take it up as high as it can go and let it crash. They could learn a lot from both events

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