NASA Wants To Get A Helicopter To Fly Above Mars

Gwen Vasquez
May 13, 2018

Nasa is working toward a future when humans will walk on the surface of Mars.

"NASA has a proud history of firsts", said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine in a statement.

The small copter - its main body will be about the size of a softball - will be attached to the rover's belly pan.

Helicopter's small weight will give it an added bonus and help the light aircraft navigate the thin Martian atmosphere, notes Aung. The Martian atmosphere is so thin that the altitude of the helicopter at takeoff on Mars already corresponds to an altitude of 30,500 meters on Earth.

The remote-controlled Mars Helicopter is created to take flight in the thin Martian atmosphere with twin counter-rotating blades. That high blade rotation is important to get the helicopter airborne because of the low atmospheric density on Mars - when the drone's on the ground, it'll already be at an Earth-equivalent altitude of 100,000 feet.

"The idea of a helicopter flying the skies of another planet is thrilling", he added. After the rover lands, it will place the helicopter on the ground and move away.

The helicopter is meant to show the viability and usefulness of aircraft on Mars, NASA explained, together with potential roles because of low-flying scout or to attain areas inaccessible out of the floor.

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The mission is planned for a launch in July 2020 and is scheduled to arrive on the planet in February 2021 to study the potential for Mars to be inhabited. Controllers from Earth will deliver commands to the helicopter to take its first autonomous flight after its batteries are charged and tests are conducted.

The full 30-day flight test campaign will include up to five flights of incrementally farther flight distances, up to a few hundred meters, and longer durations as long as 90 seconds, over a period.

The aerial vehicle will come equipped with solar panels that will recharge its lithium-ion batteries and a heating unit to allow it to survive the Martian nights.

"We don't have a pilot and Earth will be several light minutes away, so there is no way to joystick this mission in real time".

If the chopper does fly, it'll capture a rare birds-eye-view of Mars with two cameras and will open gates for sending future flying vehicles to Mars to scout out locations that are hard to access.

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

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