Tech & Science Helicopter to fly on Mars

12:56  12 may  2018
12:56  12 may  2018 Source:   msn.com

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Rotorcraft could fly over the terrain low and slow enough to observe and film it. NASA has been investigating and developing unmanned helicopters to land on and to assist in the exploration of Mars .

There won't be any manned helicopter flight. The helicopter power scales poorly with size - there's a reason we have no VTOL Jumbo Jets. But the same up-scaling issue is our friend when down-scaling.

NASA is sending a chopper to Mars.

Its next mission to the red planet is scheduled to launch in 2020, and will include not just another rover like Curiosity or Spirit, but an autonomous helicopter.

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

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Scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory are hoping to pave a clearer path for future rovers with their design of a future Mars Helicopter . The copter would spend most of its time resting atop the rover, but when it came time to fly , it would scout distant terrain, offering scientists a

SMS would include a package that flies to Mars under the first deployable shield in the history of planetary exploration. RELATED: How to Mitigate the Threat Space Junk on Mars Poses to Future Missions. How the helicopter will be powered is still under investigation.

Planning for the helicopter mission began in 2013 at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). The result is a 1.8kg craft whose blades can spin 3000 times a second. That's about 10 times faster than one on Earth, speed needed to get lift in the thin Martian atmosphere.

"The atmosphere of Mars is only 1 percent that of Earth, so when our helicopter is on the Martian surface, it's already at the Earth equivalent of 100,000 feet up," said Mimi Aung, Mars Helicopter project manager at JPL.

"To make it fly at that low atmospheric density, we had to scrutinise everything, make it as light as possible while being as strong and as powerful as it can possibly be."

The helicopter will also have solar cells to charge its batteries and a heater to keep warm at night.

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And it looks like future rovers could get flying companions. Atmospheric pressure on Mars is a tiny fraction of that on Earth, thus the relatively enormous blades for the tiny helicopter .

The helicopter will test if flying is a possibility in a thin atmosphere, like the one found on Mars . “We want to prove we have the technology to fly on another planet,” said Regina.

It won't be as easy as flying a drone, though.

"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 Ms Aung. "Instead, 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."

If the chopper fails to take flight on Mars, the rest of the mission will go on unaffected. If it does, it'll be another milestone in the history of spaceflight.

"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," said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator.

The helicopter and next rover are due to land on Mars in February 2021, seven months after leaving Earth.

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