August 17, 2018

NASA Announces It is Sending a Helicopter to Mars in 2020

13 May 2018, 10:35 | Ross Houston

Enlarge Image This illustration shows what the Mars Helicopter might look like as it readies for takeoff. NASA

Enlarge Image This illustration shows what the Mars Helicopter might look like as it readies for takeoff.                  NASA

"Exploring the Red Planet with NASA's Mars Helicopter exemplifies a successful marriage of science and technology innovation and is a unique opportunity to advance Mars exploration for the future", said Thomas Zurbuchen, Associate Administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate at the agency headquarters in Washington.

"To make it fly at that [altitude], we had to scrutinize everything, make it as light as possible while being as strong and as powerful as it can possibly be", she said.

NASA said the blades of the small helicopter, which has a softball-sized fuselage, would maintain an RPM of almost 3,000, about 10 times that of helicopters on Earth. The helicopter is being developed at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California.

It is specifically created to fly in the atmosphere of Red Planet which is 100 times thinner than Earth's. This is meant to demonstrate the viability and usefulness of such aircraft on Mars.

The helicopter is supposed to be used to achieve points on the surface of Mars, where you will not be able to get the Rover. The Nasa aircraft will be controlled through commands relayed from the rover, and will be powered by solar-charged batteries.

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To cope with that, the marscopter's twin counter-rotating blades will spin at nearly 3,000 revolutions per minute (rpm), nearly 10 times the rate of an Earth helicopter. Yet the Mars Helicopter will certainly be flying in an environment that's as slim as elevations of 100,000 feet in the world, inning accordance with NASA. On reaching the Mars surface the rover will drive to a safer place. No aircraft has ever taken off from the surface of another planet.

Because Earth will be several light minutes away, "there is no way to joystick this mission in real time", Aung said.

The pioneering helicopter is created to take things to another level and "prove that big things can come in small packages", said NASA.

Nasa plans for a 30-day flight test period that will include up to five flights, starting with a short vertical jaunt to hover for about 30 seconds at an altitude of 10ft (3m). Also, it carries a heating system to safeguard it form the cold nights of the Red Planet.

On May 11, NASA announced that a small autonomous rotorcraft will be added to the Mars 2020 mission. The rover is created to carry out geological reports also to ascertain the habitability of this Martian environment, NASA explained.

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