A helicopter will soon be flying over the surface of Mars, according to NASA, and it’s scheduled to be part of its Mars rover mission set for July 2020.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration unveiled the small, autonomous helicopter this past Friday, and it will be the first time such an aircraft will be used on another planet.
Boasting twin counter-rotating blades that spin at almost 3,000 r.p.m., which according to NASA, is “about 10 times the rate of a helicopter on Earth,” the helicopter weighing just under four pounds, will be controlled from Earth, via signals through the rover that will carry the chopper to the Martian surface.
This technology demonstration started in 2013 at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), and the Mars helicopter will incorporate a fuselage about as big as a softball, while solar cells will also help the helicopter charge its lithium-ion batteries, and it’s equipped with a heating mechanism to survive frigid nights.
With the mission expected to reach Mars in February 2021, the Mars Helicopter will undergo a 30-day flight test campaign that will include five flights of incrementally farther flight distances up to a few hundred meters. The first flight could see the Mars helicopter fly up to ten feet and hover there for around 30 seconds.
NASA has described the Mars helicopter as a “high-risk, high-reward” project, and the Mars 2020 mission will not be impacted too much should the helicopter not work, but did state that, “helicopters may have a real future as low-flying scouts and aerial vehicles to access locations not reachable by ground level.”
For the full story, head on over to NASA.
- Source: Jet Propulsion Laboratory / NASA