Published on : May 14, 2018
NASA, the US space agency is all set to set to send a small, but powerfully autonomous helicopter to Mars along with next mission to the Red Planet scheduled for 2020. The aim of scientists at NASA is to demonstrate the viability and potential of heavier-than-air vehicles on the Red Planet. NASA employee Jim Bridenstine said that NASA has a proud history of firsts and the idea of a helicopter flying the skies of another planet is thrilling. The Mars Helicopter holds much promise for our future science, discovery, and exploration missions to Mars.
The Mars Helicopter is an autonomous drone which weighs just below four pounds, with twin counter-rotating blades that will hit the thin atmosphere on Mars at about 3,000 rpm, which is about ten times the rate of a helicopter flying on Earth.
The helicopter 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. But before the helicopter can fly at Mars it has to get there. It will do so attached to the belly pan of the Mars 2020 rover.
The full 30-day flight test campaign will include up to five flights of incrementally farther flight distances, up to a few hundred meters, and longer durations as long as 90 seconds, over a period. On its first flight, the helicopter will make a short vertical climb to 10 feet (3 meters), where it will hover for about 30 seconds.
The rover will conduct geological assessments of its landing site on Mars, determine the habitability of the environment, search for signs of ancient Martian life, and assess natural resources and hazards for future human explorers.