NASA Is Sending A Helicopter To Mars. That Is Not A Typo

Enlarge ImageA Mars Helicopter prototype undergoes some testing on Earth.                  Video screenshot by Amanda Kooser  CNET

The Mars Helicopter is being envisioned as a major advancement for future exploration of the planet, providing a new way of exploring areas of the Mars surface that are not easily accessible by land.

The pint-sized aircraft weighs just 1.8 kilograms; has a fuselage about the size of a softball; and twin, counter-rotating blades that will zip through the thin Martian atmosphere at almost 3,000rpm - about 10 times the rate of similar craft on Earth.

On its first flight, the helicopter will make a short vertical climb to 10 feet and hover for about 30 sec.

If successful, the copter will fly incrementally longer missions, flying up to a few hundred meters for as long as 90 seconds.

It will also feature numerous built-in capabilities such as solar cells for charging the batteries and a heater.

The helicopter faces a number of technical challenges, including being able to generate lift in atmospheric densities equivalent to an altitude of 30 kilometers on Earth, more than double the altitude record for a conventional helicopter.

The US space agency said on Saturday it plans to launch the first-ever helicopter to Mars in 2020, a miniature, unmanned drone-like chopper that could boost our understanding of the Red Planet.

To cope with that, the marscopter's twin counter-rotating blades will spin at nearly 3,000 revolutions per minute (rpm), nearly 10 times the rate of an Earth helicopter.


The red planet is getting a helicopter. "If it does work, helicopters may have a real future as low-flying scouts and aerial vehicles to access locations not reachable by ground travel", Nasa said in a statement.

We can wait for what the Mars 2020 mission will explore the Red Planet. "The ability to see clearly what lies beyond the next hill is crucial for future explorers", according to Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate. Such views are provided now by orbiting spacecraft.

The Mars Helicopter will be bundled with the United States space agency's Mars rover when it launches 2020.

The primary goal of the Mars 2020 rover is to investigate a to-be-determined ancient environment on Mars that could have hosted past or present-day bacterial life. Jim Bridenstine is an administrator at the National Aeronautical and Space Administration.

"One possibility that's being considered is [the helicopter] can be used as a scouting tool to identify interesting terrain to send the rover to", Farley said.

The aptly named Mars Helicopter is all primed to make history.

In development since 2013, the 4-lb. "Everybody agrees it will not put the mission at risk", he said.

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