Published: Sun, May 13, 2018
Sci-tech | By Spencer Schmidt

Nasa is sending a helicopter to search the skies over Mars

Nasa is sending a helicopter to search the skies over Mars

In a statement released on Friday, NASA announced it will be sending a helicopter to Mars during its 2020 rover mission. The air pressure at the planet's surface is lower than it is at a helicopter's maximum altitude when flying above Earth. The mission of the helicopter is to demonstrate the viability and usefulness of such aircraft on Mars.

The video below shows environmental chamber tests of the Mars Helicopter.

"I am not an advocate for the helicopter and I don't believe the Mars 2020 project has been an advocate for the helicopter", he added.

"NASA has a proud history of firsts", added Bridenstine. This is an exciting experiment and will definitely inspire individuals to become scientists and make greater discoveries in the future. Known simply as "The Mars Helicopter", the device weighs less than four pounds (1.8 kilograms), and its main body section, or fuselage, is about the size of a softball. Its blades will spin at nearly 3,000 rpm, roughly 10 times the rate employed by helicopters on Earth.

Mars Helicopter will also have to be able to fly autonomously, given the long communications lag with the Earth. These are powered by lithium-ion batteries charged by solar cells that also help to run heaters to protect the electronics from freezing in the subzero Martian nights. Because it can take up to 23 minutes for a radio signal to travel between Earth and Mars, the helicopter's onboard computer handles all flight operations.

After the Rover lands on the Mars in 2021, the helicopter will be dropped onto the ground in a suitable spot, where it can charge its batteries and do some pre-launch tests. After that the helicopter will be on its own; flying independently.

After the helicopter is placed on the ground the rover will be directed to drive to a safe distance to relay commands.

NASA stated it intends that the 30day flight test interval which could include as many as five flights, so starting with a brief vertical jaunt to hover for around 30 seconds at a elevation of 10 feet (3 meters) and progressing to flight distances upto a couple hundred yards and durations up to 90 seconds. "We are working very hard for efficiencies and spending 30 days working on a technology demonstration that does not further those goals directly, from the science point of view, is a tradeoff that has to be made".

If Mars Helicopter works, it will constitute another space first for NASA, the first flight on another world.

"The ability to see clearly what lies beyond the next hill is crucial for future explorers", said Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA associate administrator for science, in the statement.

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