NASA is sending a helicopter to Mars to get a bird’s-eye view of the planet

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When NASA launches its subsequent rover to Mars, the automobile can have a small helicopter alongside for the journey. NASA introduced at the moment that it is going to be sending a small autonomous flying chopper — aptly named the Mars Helicopter — with the upcoming Mars 2020 rover. The helicopter will try and fly via the Martian air to see if autos may even levitate on Mars, the place the environment is 100 instances thinner than that of Earth.

The design for the Mars Helicopter has been within the works for the final 4 years at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, however the house company had but to determine if it was truly going to ship the automobile to Mars. NASA wanted to find out if this know-how was truly possible and if the company had sufficient cash in its price range to incorporate the copter, in keeping with Spaceflight Now. Now plainly the company has determined that this copter thought might truly work.

However even when the helicopter fails to fly, it received’t have an effect on the general mission of the Mars 2020 rover — the successor to NASA’s Curiosity rover which is already on the Purple Planet’s floor. But when the Mars Helicopter does certainly fly, it’ll be capable to seize a uncommon chicken’s-eye-view of Mars with its two cameras, one thing that’s by no means been completed earlier than. And that will imply it’s doable to ship future flying autos to Mars to scout out areas which can be exhausting to entry.

Engineers at JPL have been working to get the burden and form of the helicopter excellent, in order that it will possibly fly via the skinny Mars air. The best any helicopter has flown on Earth is 40,000 ft excessive. However the Mars Helicopter will probably be flying in an environment that’s as skinny as altitudes of 100,000 ft on Earth, in keeping with NASA. So the robotic needs to be tiny and light-weight: it weighs in at simply 4 kilos (1.eight kilograms) on Earth and is in regards to the measurement of a softball. The copter additionally sports activities twin blades that rotate 10 instances quicker than helicopter’s right here on our planet.

The plan is for the Mars Helicopter to fly hooked up to the underside of the Mars 2020 rover. As soon as the rover lands on the planet’s floor, it should then discover a good place to set down the copter, deploy it, after which roll away. Ultimately, the helicopter will attempt to take off, and it’ll should do the flight fully by itself, too. Since Earth is so far-off from Mars, it should take a number of minutes to ship the helicopter instructions. Finally, the automobile will attempt to do 5 autonomous flights over a 30-day interval; the journeys might last as long as 90 seconds.

“NASA has a proud historical past of firsts,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine mentioned in an announcement on Friday afternoon, in the course of SpaceX’s Block 5 launch. “The concept of a helicopter flying the skies of one other planet is thrilling. The Mars Helicopter holds a lot promise for our future science, discovery, and exploration missions to Mars.”

The Mars 2020 rover is slated to launch on prime of an Atlas V rocket, made by the United Launch Alliance, from Cape Canaveral, Florida in July 2020. The spacecraft will then land on Mars in February of 2021.

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