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NASA will send small autonomous helicopter to Mars in 2020

12 May, 2018, 20:51 | Author: Kristen Ingram
  • NASA In Sight Mission Works With Royal Observatory Of Belgium To Depict Mars’ Composition And Its Evolution Stage

With Mars In Sight [VIDEO] having departed for the Red Planet for a late November landing, NASA is preparing for the Mars 2020 rover, an enhanced version of the Mars Curiosity that is now rolling about the Martian surface. NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine [VIDEO] announced on Twitter that the Mars 2020 would have another enhancement.

"The idea of a helicopter flying the skies of another planet is thrilling", NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in the statement. Yes, when the administration launches its next rover to the red planet; it will have a small helicopter along for the ride. If successful, it could be a model for scouting on future Mars missions, able to access places the human-built rovers cannot reach. Known simply as "The Mars Helicopter", the device weighs less than four pounds (1.8 kilograms), and its main body section, or fuselage, is about the size of a softball.

Under development at JPL since August 2013, the Mars Helicopter uses electrically-driven counter-rotating blades specially created to handle the thin Martian air thanks to their wide span and rotation of 3,000 rpm, which is 10 times faster than their Earth counterparts. Because Mars is far away from Earth, with radio signals taking at least 20 minutes to cross interplanetary space, the Mars Helicopter will fly autonomously and not via a human operated joy stick as drones on Earth are controlled.

The Mar's helicopter carries twin blades, which whirls about ten times the blades of the aircraft on the Earth's surface.

The primary goal of the Mars 2020 rover is to investigate a to-be-determined ancient environment on Mars that could have hosted past or present-day bacterial life. After placing the helicopter on earth, the rover is going to be told to drive to a safe space to relay orders. 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. The mission is scheduled to take off on the United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral in Florida, and reach Mars in February 2021. "We have an autonomous capability that will be able to receive and interpret commands from the ground, and then fly the mission on its own", Aung said.

"The ability to see clearly what lies beyond the next hill is crucial for future explorers", he said. That would fill in some gaps between the rover's close-to-the-ground camera perspective and the long-distance view we get from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. NASA views the copter as a "high-risk, high-reward technology demonstration", it said. Scientists will use the instruments aboard the rover to identify and collect samples of rock and soil, encase them in sealed tubes, and leave them on the planet's surface for potential return to Earth on a future Mars mission.

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