Friday, 25 May, 2018

NASA announces a tiny helicopter will travel to Mars in 2020

Enlarge ImageA Mars Helicopter prototype undergoes some testing on Earth.                  Video screenshot by Amanda Kooser  CNET Enlarge ImageA Mars Helicopter prototype undergoes some testing on Earth. Video screenshot by Amanda Kooser CNET
Kim Reese | 12 May, 2018, 21:33

Thomas Zurbuchen, Associate Administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, said the mission provided "a unique opportunity to advance Mars exploration for the future".

What started as a technology development project at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in August 2013, has become The Mars Helicopter, a small, autonomous rotorcraft which will travel with the agency's Mars 2020 rover mission, now scheduled to launch in July 2020 and be the first heavier-than-air craft on another world.

"We don't have a pilot, and Earth will be several light minutes away, so there is no way to joystick this mission in real time", said Mimi Aung, the helicopter project manager at Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

The aerial vehicle will come equipped with solar panels that will recharge its lithium-ion batteries and a heating unit to allow it to survive the Martian nights. After the rover lands, the helicopter will be placed on the ground. 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 helicopter will be deployed from the belly pan of the Mars 2020 rover and is considered critical to future space exploration missions.

NASA will send a tiny helicopter to Mars along with its next rover in July 2020.

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Mars 2020 is scheduled now to launch sometime in July 2020 with a landing slated for February 2021.

The aptly named Mars Helicopter is all primed to make history.

The helicopter is meant to show the viability and usefulness of aircraft on Mars, NASA explained, together with potential roles because of low-flying scout or to attain areas inaccessible out of the floor. In tests he successfully rose to a height in excess of 12 km, this means that on Mars the Mars Helicopter can fly at an altitude of over 30 km.

NASA plans to use the Mars Helicopter on five flights over the course of 30 days, covering distances up to a few hundred metres in 90 seconds or less. 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.

If the mission proves successful, helicopters will be used in future missions to planets to access locations not reachable by ground travel. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Texas Monthly, the Austin American-Statesman, Damn Joan, and Community Impact Newspaper.

According to Bridenstine, the success of the "marscopter" may enable more ambitious missions in the future.

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