With Mars In Sight [VIDEO] having departed for the Red Planet for a late November landing, NASA is preparing for the Mars 2020 rover, an enhanced version of the Mars Curiosity that is now rolling about the Martian surface. NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine [VIDEO] announced on Twitter that the Mars 2020 would have another enhancement.
NASA will send a tiny helicopter to Mars along with its next rover in July 2020.
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine described the prospect of a helicopter flying the skies of another planet as "thrilling", while Zurbuchen compared the mission to the Wright brothers pioneering flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, in 1903. "This exciting and visionary achievement will inspire young people all over the United States to become scientists and engineers, paving the way for even greater discoveries in the future".
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.
The helicopter will ride to Mars attached to the rover's belly pan, officials said.
Once the helicopter is placed on Mars, the rover will move to a safe distance and relay commands.
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. Eventually, over the course of 30 days, it will make five flights of increasingly farther distances, eventually to heights of up to hundreds of meters and staying in the air for up to 90 seconds. 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.
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"The altitude record for a helicopter flying here on Earth is about 40,000 feet".
But don't let its cute stature fool you; this little fellow packs a lot of power and its twin blades are able to rotate 10 times faster than what we normally see here on Earth, reaching nearly 3,000 revolutions per minute.
"We have an autonomous capability that will be able to receive and interpret commands from the ground, and then fly the mission on its own", Aung said. It has the potential to revolutionize the study of other planets by introducing robotic heavier-than-air aerial vehicles to the task of deep space exploration. Such views are provided now by orbiting spacecraft. 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.
When NASA releases its following vagabond to Mars, the vehicle will certainly have a tiny helicopter along for the flight.
The aptly named Mars Helicopter is all primed to make history.
As a technology demonstration, the Mars Helicopter is considered a high-risk, high-reward project. Now it appears that the company has actually made a decision that this helicopter concept might in fact function.