NASA is sending its first autonomous helicopter to Mars with 2020 rover

The Mars Helicopter, a small, autonomous rotorcraft, will go with the agency's Mars 2020 rover mission, presently scheduled to launch in July 2020, to demonstrate the activity and capability of heavier-than-air vehicles on the Red Planet.


The Mars Helicopter, a small, autonomous rotorcraft, will go with the agency's Mars 2020 rover mission, presently scheduled to launch in July 2020, to demonstrate the activity and capability of heavier-than-air vehicles on the Red Planet.

The craft will experience a 30-day test campaign once it reaches the Red Planet to demonstrate the viability of movement over the Martian surface with a heavier-than-air craft. The helicopter will attempt up to five flights, going more distant and working for longer each time — up to a couple of hundred meters and 90 seconds. On its first flight, the helicopter will make a short vertical climb to 10 feet (3 meters), where it will hover for around 30 seconds.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said, "NASA has a glad history of firsts. The thought of a helicopter flying the skies of another planet is exciting. The Mars Helicopter holds much promise for our future science, discovery, and investigation missions to Mars."

U.S. Rep. John Culberson of Texas echoed Bridenstine's appreciation of the effect of American firsts on the future of investigation and discovery. Culberson said, "It's fitting that the United States of America is the first nation in history to fly the first heavier-than-air craft on another world. This energizing and visionary accomplishment will inspire youngsters everywhere throughout the United States to end up scientists and engineers, paving the path for significantly more prominent discoveries in the future."


The Mars Helicopter's development started in 2013 at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California. The Mars Helicopter needed to demonstrate that enormous things could come in small packages. The result of the group's four years of design, testing and redesign weigh in at minimal under four pounds (1.8 kilograms). Its fuselage is about the size of a softball, and its twin, counter-rotating blades will chomp into the thin Martian atmosphere at almost 3,000 rpm – around 10 times the rate of a helicopter on Earth. The helicopter's twin blades will whirl at around 10 times the rate of a helicopter's blades on Earth — at 3,000 rpm — to stay on high in Mars' thin atmosphere.



Mimi Aung, Mars Helicopter project manager at JPL said, "The elevation record for a helicopter flying here on Earth is around 40,000 feet. The atmosphere of Mars is just a single percent that of Earth, so when our helicopter is on the Martian surface, it's already at what might as well be called 100,000 feet up. To make it fly at that low atmospheric density, we needed to scrutinize everything, make it as light as possible while being as strong and as intense as it can possibly be."

Aung said, "We don't have a pilot and Earth will be several light minutes away, so there is no real way to joystick this mission progressively. Instead, we have an autonomous capability that will have the capacity to get and translate commands from the ground, and afterwards fly the mission all alone."

Once the rover is on the planet's surface, a suitable area will be found to send the helicopter down from the vehicle and place it on the ground. The rover at that point will be headed out from the helicopter to a safe distance from which it will transfer commands. After its batteries are charged and a bunch of tests are performed, controllers on Earth will summon the Mars Helicopter to take its first autonomous flight into history.

As a technology demonstration, the Mars Helicopter is considered a high-risk, high-remunerate project. On the off chance that it does not work, the Mars 2020 mission won't be affected. On the off chance that it does work, helicopters may have a genuine future as low-flying scouts and airborne vehicles to access locations not reachable by ground travel.

"The ability to see plainly what lies past the following slope is critical for future explorers," said Zurbuchen. "We already have extraordinary views of Mars from the surface as well as from circle. With the added dimension of a bird's-eye see from a 'marscopter,' we can just envision what future missions will accomplish."

Mars 2020 will launch on a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida and is expected to achieve Mars in February 2021.

The Mars 2020 Project at JPL in Pasadena, California, manages rover development for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. NASA's Launch Services Program, based at the agency's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, is responsible for launch management.

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Scien-Tech News: NASA is sending its first autonomous helicopter to Mars with 2020 rover
NASA is sending its first autonomous helicopter to Mars with 2020 rover
The Mars Helicopter, a small, autonomous rotorcraft, will go with the agency's Mars 2020 rover mission, presently scheduled to launch in July 2020, to demonstrate the activity and capability of heavier-than-air vehicles on the Red Planet.
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