NASA to pack a helicopter for its 2020 mission to Mars

NASA is planning to send a helicopter to Mars in July of 2020

NASA is planning to send a helicopter to Mars in July of 2020

Nasa is sending a helicopter to Mars, in the first test of a heavier-than-air aircraft on another planet, BBC reported.

After the rover lands on Mars in 2021, NASA will use the spacecraft's cameras to scan the ground of the planet, find a suitable flat place to set the tiny helicopter down.

Its fuselage is about the size of a softball, and its twin, counter-rotating blades will bite into the thin Martian atmosphere at nearly 3,000 rpm, which is about 10 times the rate of a normal helicopter on Earth.

The objective of the Mars Helicopter will be to fly around the Red Planet and to take photographs from a bird's-eye view.

The Mars helicopter will not be manned, but it will operate autonomously, in a way similar to a flying drone here on Earth. According to the agency, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, has been working on the "marscopter" project since August 2013. However, since Mars's atmosphere is just 1 percent of Earth's, a helicopter that's just sitting on the surface of the Red Planet is already at the equivalent of 100,000 feet on Earth.

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After the helicopter is placed on the ground the rover will be directed to drive to a safe distance to relay commands.

The helicopter's twin blades will whirl at about 10 times the rate of a helicopter's blades on Earth - at 3,000 rpm - to stay aloft in Mars' thin atmosphere.

Mars's helicopter gives many promises for future scientific exploration missions on Mars, "said NASA commander Jim Bridenstine, who is in charge of the drone machine". Because the heart of the mission, a new Mars rover, should work independently of the helicopter.

"To make it fly at that low atmospheric density, we had to scrutinize everything, make it as light as possible while being as strong and as powerful as it can possibly be", Aung adds. Then it will take its very first autonomous flight in Mars and make history.

While the helicopter has been deemed a high-risk, high-reward operation, NASA employees say that if it fails, it will not impact the 2020 mission. Mars is about 20 light minutes away from Earth. The Mars Helicopter and the Mars 2020 rover will be carried into space by a United Launch Alliance Atlas V, scheduled to take off from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The rover is created to carry out geological reports also to ascertain the habitability of this Martian environment, NASA explained.

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