NASA's Mars Helicopter Will Ride Along With 2020 Rover

NASA plans autonomous helicopters to land on Mars in 2020

NASA plans autonomous helicopters to land on Mars in 2020

Meanwhile, NASA added that the next Mars rover which will play a crucial part in the 2020 mission is in the midst of assembly, where it will spend its operational life searching for organic compounds to see if life ever flourished on the Red Planet.

No other planet has been more visited by our contraptions than Mars. And amid all this speculation: could the first man on Mars.be a woman?

The Mars helicopter will ride to the planet attached to the underside of the 2020 rover. If unsuccessful, the Mars 2020 mission will not be impacted. As such, NASA is thinking of sending a flying drone to the red planet that will provide scientists an aerial view of the planet.

For example: the Red Planet's particularly-weak atmosphere and the communication delay between ground control here on Earth and the rover.

"After the Wright Brothers proved 117 years ago that powered, sustained, and controlled flight was possible here on Earth", he said, "another group of American pioneers may prove the same can be done on another world". However, if it does work, helicopters may have a real future in interplanetary exploration. The chopper will fly through the Martian air to observe if vehicles can levitate on Mars, which has an atmosphere 100 times thinner than on Earth. The technology demonstration has been many years in the making; it started in 2013 at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). "The atmosphere of Mars is only one 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", Mimi Aung, Mars Helicopter project manager at JPL, said in a statement.

The drone itself weighs 1.8kg (just under 4lbs) while the dual, counter-rotating blades will be spinning at 3000RPM, around 10x faster than a regular helicopter.

That said, it is also worth noting that NASA has said if the flight demonstration is not successful, there won't be any effect on how the next Mars rover goes about its job.

Because of its vast distance - Earth will be several minutes away, traveling at the speed of light - Aung said that direct control will be impossible. Instead, the machine is created to receive pre-programmed commands from Earth, then execute them on its own, always autonomously navigating the environment in real-time. With each successive flight, the duration (90 seconds max) and distance covered will be increased (up to a few hundred meters). On its first flight, the vehicle will make a short vertical climb to 10 feet (3 meters) and remain there for 30 seconds before landing.

ESA is developing a mechanism of getting capsules to the surface of Mars on its orbit. "With the added dimension of a bird's-eye view from a 'marscopter, ' we can only imagine what future missions will achieve".

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