Tuesday, 13 November, 2018

NASA will send small autonomous helicopter to Mars in 2020

NASA's Mars Helicopter NASA's Mars HelicopterImage nasa
| 12 May, 2018, 21:33

The views from a helicopter flying across Mars will also provide Nasa with a stellar public relations tool as it seeks worldwide support for sending humans to the planet in the 2030s or later.

The space agency is looking to make history by sending the autonomous rotorcraft into the skies on the Red planet.

The craft weighs in at little under four pounds, and its fuselage is about the size of a softball.

Due to the atmospheric difference between Earth and Mars, the helicopter will be the equivalent of 100,000 feet in the air at home when it is on the ground on Mars. The helicopter will have solar cells to charge its lithium-ion batteries and a heating mechanism to keep it warm during frigid nights.

Pilots on Earth will control the next-generation aircraft for small test flights at first, and then gradually expand the range and duration as they determine its potential to scout and study previously inaccessible locations. "The Mars Helicopter holds much promise for our future science, discovery, and exploration missions to Mars". Controllers on the planet will control the helicopter to shoot its initial autonomous airport after its batteries have been charged and evaluations are all ran, NASA explained.

The Mars Helicopter will bear no resemblance to the ones that hover nearly constantly in the skies above Los Angeles and tracking auto chases.


The Mars Helicopter is being envisioned as a major advancement for future exploration of the planet, providing a new way of exploring areas of the Mars surface that are not easily accessible by land. Once it reaches the Red Planet, it will be tested to demonstrate the travel viability above the surface of the Mars. Blades will spin at 3,000 rpm, 10 times the speed of a helicopter on Earth.

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.

The helicopter will have a relatively short mission, about 30 days in total.

The Mars Helicopter is considered a high-risk, high-reward project, according to NASA: If the helicopter fails, it won't affect the rest of the Mars 2020 rover's mission, but if it succeeds, the agency will have a powerful new tool to survey the planet and access now unreachable locations.

"The ability to see clearly what lies beyond the next hill is crucial for future explorers", Thomas Zurbuchen, Nasa's associate administrator for science, said.

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

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