NASA said on Friday that it will send a small helicopter to Mars as part of the US space agency’s 2020 mission to place a next generation rover on the Martian surface, marking the first time such an aircraft will be used on another worl
The remote-controlled Mars Helicopter, designed to take a flight in the thin Martian atmosphere with two-counter rotating blades , weighs about 1.8 Kg, with a fuselage the size of a softball, NASA said. Its blades will spin at almost 3,000 rpm, roughly 10 times the rate employed by helicopters on Earth.
“The altitude record for a helicopter flying here on Earth is about 12,200m. The atmosphere of Mars is only one percent that of Earth, so when our helicopter is on the Martian surface, it’s already at the Earth equivalent of 30,480m up,” Mimi Aung, the Mars Helicopter project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said in a statement
NASA officials said the rotorcraft will reach the Red Planet’s surface attached to the car-sized rover. After placing the helicopter on the ground, the rover will be directed to drive to a stay difference to relay commands. Controllers on Earth will command the helicopter to take its first autonomous flight after its charged and tests are conducted, NASA said.
“The idea of a helicopter flying in the skies of another planet is thrilling,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a statement.
The helicopter is intended to demonstrate the viability and usefulness of such aircraft on Mars, NASA said, with potential roles as a low-flying scout or to reach location such inaccessible from the ground. NASA said it plans a 30-day flight test period that will include up to five flights, starting with a shot vertical jaunt to hover for about 30 seconds at an altitude of 3m and progressing to flight distances up to a few hundred yards and duration up to 90 seconds. The helicopter contains solar cells to charge its lithium-ion batteries and a heating mechanism to keep it worm during frigid nights.
The Mars 2020 rover mission is scheduled to launch in July 2020.