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Lifting and transport of Martian dust by the Ingenuity helicopter rotor downwash as observed by high-speed imaging from the Perseverance rover
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  • Mark T Lemmon,
  • Ralph D. Lorenz,
  • Jason Rabinovitch,
  • Claire Newman,
  • Nathan Robert Williams,
  • Robert Sullivan,
  • Matthew P. Golombek,
  • James F. Bell III,
  • Justin N. Maki,
  • Alvaro Vicente-Retortillo
Mark T Lemmon
Space Science Institute

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

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Ralph D. Lorenz
Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab
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Jason Rabinovitch
Stevens Institute of Technology
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Claire Newman
Aeolis Research
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Nathan Robert Williams
Jet Propulsion Lab
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Robert Sullivan
Cornell University
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Matthew P. Golombek
Jet Propulsion Laboratory
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James F. Bell III
Arizona State University
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Justin N. Maki
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology
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Alvaro Vicente-Retortillo
Centro de Astrobiología (CSIC-INTA)
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Martian atmospheric dust is a major driver of weather, with feedbacks between atmospheric dust distribution, circulation changes from radiative heating and cooling driven by this dust, and winds that mobilize surface dust and distribute it in the atmosphere. Wind-driven mobilization of surface dust is a poorly understood process due to significant uncertainty about minimum wind stress, and whether saltation of sand particles is required. This study utilizes video of six Ingenuity helicopter flights to measure dust lifting during helicopter ascents, traverses, and descents. Dust mobilization persisted on take-off until the helicopter exceeded 3 m altitude, with dust advecting at 4-6 m/s. During landing, dust mobilization initiated at 2.3-3.6 m altitude. Extensive dust mobilization occurred during traverses at 5.1-5.7 m altitude. Dust mobilization threshold friction velocity of rotor-induced winds during landing are modelled at 0.4-0.6 m/s (factor of two uncertainty in this estimate), with higher winds required when the helicopter was over undisturbed terrain. Modeling dust mobilization from >5 m cruising altitude indicates mobilization by 0.3 m/s winds, suggesting non-saltation mechanisms like mobilization and destruction of dust aggregates. No dependence on background winds was seen for the initiation of dust lifting, but one case of takeoff in 7 m/s winds created a track of darkened terrain downwind of the helicopter, which may have been a saltation cluster. When the helicopter was cruising at 5-6 m altitude, recirculation was seen in the dust clouds.