Published: Sat, May 12, 2018
Research | By Derrick Holloway

Nasa will send helicopter to Mars to test otherworldly flight

Nasa will send helicopter to Mars to test otherworldly flight

When the Mars 2020 Rover lands on Mars, the Mars Helicopter will deploy from the bottom of the space probe.

"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", Thomas Zurbuchen, Associate Administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, says in a statement. With this in mind, NASA is looking at ways to literally fly over those obstacles using miniature helicopters.

The helicopter looks like "a medium-size cubic tissue box,"according to NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) in Pasadena, California, which designed it".

The drone weighs 1.8 kilograms (just under four pounds) and the dual, counter-rotating blades will spin at around 3,000 rpm, roughly 10 times the rate of a regular helicopter.

It will also feature numerous built-in capabilities such as solar cells for charging the batteries and a heater.

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In a statement, NASA said, "The altitude record for a helicopter flying here on Earth is about 40,000 feet (12,200 meters)". It is specifically created to fly in the atmosphere of Mars, which is 100 times thinner than Earth's.

To get to the Red Planet from earth, this special chopper will be attached to the belly pan of the Mars 2020 rover.

BBC notes that existing vehicles on Mars have been wheeled ones bound on the planet's surface, which is prone to running into obstacles.

The launch team on earth will be able to send commands to the helicopter via the rocket - but it is too far away from them to control it directly.

Due to the atmospheric difference between Earth and Mars, the helicopter will be the equivalent of 100,000 feet in the air at home when it is on the ground on Mars.

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The helicopter's first flight will see it climb 10 feet (3 meters) into the Martian air, where it will attempt to hover for 30 seconds.

Both projects are considered "high-risk, high-reward" technology demonstrations, meaning that neither of the two missions will be impacted if the CubeSats and the "marscopter" fail.

"The ability to see clearly what lies beyond the next hill is crucial for future explorers", he said.

These images released by NASA show the surface of Mars.

If Mars Helicopter works, it will constitute another space first for NASA, the first flight on another world. It's expected to reach the planet on February 2021. The rover is created to carry out geological reports also to ascertain the habitability of this Martian environment, NASA explained.

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