NASA intends to send a small helicopter on Mars

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

The Mars 2020 rover mission has been scheduled to release in July 2020 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida and hit Mars in February 2021.

The small, autonomous aircraft will be blasted into space with the U.S. Space Agency's Mars Rover in July 2020, a spokesman said. According to NASA employees, at the moment, the experts identified the main scientific tasks for the helicopter, but the idea of flying such a device on another planet is just fascinating. The planet's very thin atmosphere is not ideal for the flying of helicopters. 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.

After its batteries are charged and a myriad of tests are performed, controllers on Earth will command the Mars Helicopter to take its first autonomous flight into history.

The remote Mars Helicopter, created to carry flight in the thin Martian setting with twin counter-rotating bladesthat weighs about four pounds (1.8 kilograms), with a fuselage the size of a softball, NASA explained. A prototype has been tested in a chamber that mimics the Martian atmosphere at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

"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.

The helicopter contains solar cells to charge its lithium-ion batteries and a heating mechanism to keep it warm during frigid nights.

The team say it's an ambitious project that carries a high risk of failure - but if it comes off it could offer new frontiers for space exploration.

Once the copter is ready to go, a 30-day test flight campaign will commence, beginning with a simple hover in place and leading to more extensive reconnaissance missions lasting as long as 90 seconds. "The Mars Helicopter holds much guarantee for our future scientific research, exploration, as well as expedition objectives to Mars".

"The ability to see clearly what lies beyond the next hill is crucial for future explorers", Thomas Zurbuchen, Nasa's associate administrator for science, said. Mars is about 20 light minutes away from Earth. If it does not work, the Mars 2020 mission will not be impacted. "With the added dimension of a bird's-eye view from a 'marscopter, ' we can only imagine what future missions will achieve".

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