Sunday, 27 May, 2018

In an interplanetary first, NASA to fly a helicopter on Mars

NASA's Mars Helicopter NASA's Mars HelicopterImage nasa
Andrew Wong | 12 May, 2018, 23:14

The layout for the Mars Helicopter has actually remained in the benefit the last 4 years at NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab, yet the room company had yet to determine if it was really mosting likely to send out the lorry 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.

Once the helicopter is transported to Mars by way of the rover, it will begin flying around the planet on its own. Mars's helicopter gives many promises for future scientific exploration missions on Mars, "said NASA commander Jim Bridenstine, who is in charge of the drone machine".

Its design team spent more than four years shrinking a working helicopter to "the size of a softball" and cutting its weight to 1.8kg (4lbs).

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.

"The altitude record for a helicopter flying here on Earth is about 40,000 feet [12,000 meters]", MiMi Aung, Mars Helicopter project manager at JPL, said in the statement. However, since Mars's atmosphere is just 1 percent of Earth's, a helicopter that's just sitting on the surface of the Red Planet is already at the equivalent of 100,000 feet on Earth.

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It will be attached to the belly pan of the Mars 2020 rover and placed on the surface upon finding a suitable site after the rover's February 2021 landing.

The Mars Helicopter is considered a high-risk, high-reward project, according to NASA: If the helicopter fails, it won't affect the rest of the Mars 2020 rover's mission, but if it succeeds, the agency will have a powerful new tool to survey the planet and access now unreachable locations. The tiny helicopter will test the capabilities for controlled flight in the thin atmosphere of Mars and is also expected to pave the way for future uses across the solar system.

But JPL has made sure that the Mars Helicopter has everything it needs to fearless the rough environment on the Red Planet.

Mars 2020 is scheduled now to launch sometime in July 2020 with a landing slated for February 2021. On its first flight, the helicopter will make a short vertical climb to 10 feet (3 meters), where it will hover for about 30 seconds. Just like the twin MarCO CubeSats now on their way to the Red Planet as part of the historic InSight mission, the "marscopter" is a trailblazer meant to demonstrate that the technology can be used in exploration missions. These specifications come from the headquarters of the NASA.

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