NASA Announces It is Sending a Helicopter to Mars in 2020


Nasa said on Friday it will send a small helicopter to Mars as part of the U.S. space agency's 2020 mission to place a next-generation rover on the Martian surface.

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

NASA will send a helicopter to Mars to see whether it is possible to fly a craft that is heavier than air.

"After the Wright Brothers proved 117 years ago that powered, sustained, and controlled flight was possible here on Earth, another group of American pioneers may prove the same can be done on another world", NASA science mission directorate associate administrator Thomas Zurbuchen said. The helicopter is being developed at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California.

The "Mars Helicopter" weighs less than 1.8kg and its blades rotate more than 10 times as fast as those on Earth. Jim Bridenstine is an administrator at the National Aeronautical and Space Administration. It will carry solar cells to charge up in the light of the sun and a heating mechanism to endure cold nights on the Red Planet.

NASA said the blades of the small helicopter, which has a softball-sized fuselage, would maintain an RPM of almost 3,000, about 10 times that of helicopters on Earth.

For its trip to Mars, the helicopter will be packed on the underside of the rover. The mission of the helicopter is to demonstrate the viability and usefulness of such aircraft on Mars.

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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.

He likened it to Sojourner, NASA's first Mars rover, which was about the size of a microwave oven and trundled around Mars in 1997.

The team say it's an ambitious project that carries a high risk of failure - but if it comes off it could offer new frontiers for space exploration.

After its batteries are charged and tests are performed, controllers on Earth will command the helicopter to take its first autonomous flight.

"We don't have a pilot and Earth will be several light minutes away, so there is no way to joystick this mission in real time", said Aung.

According to the source, the Mars Helicopter will be bundled with the United States space agency's Mars rover when it launches in 2020.