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Ingenuity update: Dust storm caused issues; 20th flight upcoming

Overview map
Click for interactive map.

According to the Ingenuity engineering team in an update today, the Mars helicopter is getting ready for its 20th flight, scheduled for no earlier than today, even as the team successfully dealt with dust that settled on the helicopter’s various parts prior to flight 19.

The dust storm did, however, leave the Ingenuity team with two additional challenges to deal with: a dirty navigation camera window and dust in the swashplate assemblies.

Comparing navigation camera images taken before and after the dust storm revealed that the storm deposited debris on the ground-facing navigation camera window, specifically around the periphery of the camera’s field of view. Debris on the navigation camera window is problematic because Ingenuity’s visual navigation software may confuse the debris with the actual ground features that it tries to track during flight, which can cause navigation errors. Fortunately, Ingenuity’s software provides a tool for dealing with this issue: The team can provide an updated image mask file that tells the visual navigation software to ignore certain regions of the image. The operations team made use of this feature and performed an image mask update late last month.

The dust storm also deposited dust and sand in Ingenuity’s swashplate assemblies. On Mars as well as on Earth, a helicopter’s swashplates are very important because they control the pitch (angle from horizontal) of the rotor blades, which is essential for stable and controlled flight. Ingenuity’s swashplate issue was first detected when the rotorcraft reported a failure during its first automated swashplate actuator self-test since the dust storm on Jan. 28, 2022 (Sol 335 of the Perseverance mission). Data revealed that all six swashplate servo actuators were experiencing unusual levels of unusual levels of resistance while moving the swashplates over their range of motion.

The engineers subsequently tested a procedure, planned before launch, for cleaning the swashplates, and found that it worked.

The data from that activity showed a significant improvement – a reduction in servo loading, so the team followed it up with seven back-to-back servo wiggles on Sol 341. Remarkably, by the end of that activity, Ingenuity’s servo loads appeared nearly identical to nominal loads seen prior to the dust storm.

After dealing with both dust issues, flight 19 proceeded successfully, as planned.

The overview map above shows the present location of Perseverance as the red dot, the present location of Ingenuity by the green dot, and the approximate landing site for the helicopter’s 20th flight by the black dot. The tan dotted line shows Perseverance’s planned route.

Perseverance itself has been traveling fast since Ingenuity’s last flight on February 9th, almost completely retracing its steps to return almost to its landing site.

Conscious Choice cover

Now available in hardback and paperback as well as ebook!


From the press release: In this ground-breaking new history of early America, historian Robert Zimmerman not only exposes the lie behind The New York Times 1619 Project that falsely claims slavery is central to the history of the United States, he also provides profound lessons about the nature of human societies, lessons important for Americans today as well as for all future settlers on Mars and elsewhere in space.

Conscious Choice: The origins of slavery in America and why it matters today and for our future in outer space, is a riveting page-turning story that documents how slavery slowly became pervasive in the southern British colonies of North America, colonies founded by a people and culture that not only did not allow slavery but in every way were hostile to the practice.  
Conscious Choice does more however. In telling the tragic history of the Virginia colony and the rise of slavery there, Zimmerman lays out the proper path for creating healthy societies in places like the Moon and Mars.


“Zimmerman’s ground-breaking history provides every future generation the basic framework for establishing new societies on other worlds. We would be wise to heed what he says.” —Robert Zubrin, founder of founder of the Mars Society.


All editions are available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and all book vendors, with the ebook priced at $5.99 before discount. The ebook can also be purchased direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit, in which case you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.


Autographed printed copies are also available at discount directly from me (hardback $24.95; paperback $14.95; Shipping cost for either: $5.00). Just email me at zimmerman @ nasw dot org.


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