Nasa is sending a helicopter to search the skies over Mars

NASA plans to send a small, unmanned helicopter to Mars that could boost our understanding of the Red Planet. Developed by Pasadena-based Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a flying machine held aloft by twin rotors will be taken to Mars in 2020 and become the first "heavier-than-air" craft to be flown on another world, NASA announced Friday.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a statement said, "The idea of a helicopter flying the skies of another planet is thrilling". It has a size of approximately 1.8 kilograms. For example: the red planet's particularly-weak atmosphere and the communication delay between ground control here on Earth and the rover. The rover then will be driven away from the helicopter to a safe distance from which it will relay commands. Later flights will last up to 90 seconds and travel as far as a few hundred meters.

The softball-sized helicopter has solar cells that will charge lithium-ion batteries and a heating mechanism to keep it warm during the cold Martian nights.

"The altitude record for a helicopter flying here on Earth is about 40,000 feet (12,200 meters)".

Due to the much thinner Martian atmosphere, the blades of the aircraft need to spin about 10-times faster than those of a normal helicopter to generate lift.

The red planet is getting a helicopter.

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This self-portrait of NASA's Curiosity Mars rover shows the vehicle on Vera Rubin Ridge, Mars.

We can wait for what the Mars 2020 mission will explore the Red Planet.

"The ability to see clearly what lies beyond the next hill is crucial for future explorers", said Zurbuchen. Such views are provided now by orbiting spacecraft. That would fill in some gaps between the rover's close-to-the-ground camera perspective and the long-distance view we get from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

The potential addition of Mars Helicopter, though, has not necessarily been warmly accepted by the main Mars 2020 mission.

As a technology demonstration, the Mars Helicopter is considered a high-risk, high-reward project.

"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 said at the meeting. The trial is planned as a thirty-day test campaign. "That will happen very early in the mission because the capabilities of the helicopter do not allow it to be maintained on the rover for an extended period", project scientist Ken Farley, with the California Institute of Technology, told the National Academy of Sciences' Space Studies Board May 3.

(Copyright © 2015. All Rights Reserved.)
 
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