NASA will send small autonomous helicopter to Mars in 2020

NASA will send small autonomous helicopter to Mars in 2020

NASA is sending a tiny unmanned helicopter to Mars in a mission that could mark the first ever aircraft launch from another planet.

The Mars 2020 rover mission is scheduled to launch in July 2020 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida and reach Mars in February 2021. Once it reaches the Red Planet, it will be tested to demonstrate the travel viability above the surface of the Mars.

So, what exactly is the Mars Helicopter?

The spindly Mars Helicopter, which has been in development since 2013, has a box-like fuselage about the size of a softball and weighs approximately four pounds.

NASA said the blades of the small helicopter, which has a softball-sized fuselage, would maintain an RPM of almost 3,000, about 10 times that of helicopters on Earth.

The helicopter will ride to Mars attached to the rover's belly pan, officials said.

Double screw Mars Helicopter is able to rotate at a speed 10 times the speed of the earth's helicopters.

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Mimi Aung, Mars Helicopter project manager at JPL, explains why it was necessary to make the Mars-bound helicopter stronger and more powerful than anything that came before it. The thin air at the surface of Mars is the equivalent of being 100,000 feet above Earth - well beyond the limits of terrestrial helicopters - although the weaker gravity helps.

The chopper will attempt controlled flight in Mars' thin atmosphere.

NASA will test the drone for 30 days to see how it performs in an environment unlike Earth. 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.

The team say it's an ambitious project that carries a high risk of failure - but if it comes off it could offer new frontiers for space exploration.

The helicopter also contains built-in capabilities needed for operation at Mars, including solar cells to charge its lithium-ion batteries, and a heating mechanism to keep it warm through the cold Martian nights.

Once the rover is on the planet's surface, a suitable location will be found to deploy the helicopter down from the vehicle and place it onto the ground.

Since the human operators on Earth will be several light minutes away from the helicopter, the vehicle will conduct its own missions based on the instructions from the scientists.

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