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12 May 2018, 05:28 | Justin Tyler
NASA will send a tiny helicopter to Mars in 2020
That will change in 2020 once NASA sends an autonomous flying "rotorcraft" to Mars to go exploring where no rover can check out on foot (or on wheels), which is naturally named the Mars Helicopter. And if you think this sounds relatively cool, well: You're right. It will be attached to the belly pan of the Mars 2020 rover and placed on the surface upon finding a suitable site after the rover's February 2021 landing.
This illustration shows what the Mars Helicopter might look like as it readies for takeoff.
One such vehicle, the Spirit rover, got stuck in a patch of sand in 2009, where it eventually ran out of power and shut down.
"NASA has a proud history of firsts", Bridenstine said in a statement May 11.
Is it insane to think we can fly a helicopter on another planet? In order to take off, the tiny flying robot needs to spin it's two blades ten times faster - 3,000 times per minute - than it would on Earth while carrying batteries and other hardware crafted to be as light as possible.
The "marscopter" will be one of the components of the Mars survey mission scheduled to blast off in July 2020, the USA space agency announced on Friday.
No nation has ever flown a helicopter on Mars before.
Once on Mars, NASA plans to deploy the helicopter for a 30-day flight test campaign with up to five flights covering progressively greater distances.
Solar cells will charge the helicopter's lithium-ion batteries, and a heating mechanism should keep it from freezing in the cold Martian nights. It will be the first helicopter on another planet.
"The ability to see clearly what lies beyond the next hill is crucial for future explorers", said Zurbuchen. "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 100,000 feet (30,480 meters) up", Mimi Aung, the Mars Helicopter project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said in a statement.
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. "With the added dimension of a bird's-eye view from a 'marscopter, ' we can only imagine what future missions will achieve". "If it does work, helicopters may have a real future as low-flying scouts and aerial vehicles to access locations not reachable by ground travel". NASA acknowledges the challenge, saying this is a "high-risk, high-reward project". The mission is now scheduled to launch in July 2020. NASA talked about the proposed mission add-on back in 2015 and it's been in development since 2013. NASA's Launch Services Program, based at the agency's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, is responsible for launch management.
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