Sci-tech

NASA flying helicopter to Mars using remote control

NASA flying helicopter to Mars using remote control

When the Mars 2020 mission sends a rover to the Red Planet, there will also be a helicopter sent with it to fly around Mars and take photos.

As according to Nasa, it weighs about four pounds (1.8 kilograms), with a fuselage the size of a softball, its blades will spin at nearly 3,000 rpm, roughly 10 times the rate employed by helicopters on Earth.

The next vehicle NASA is sending to Mars nestles somewhere between a rover and a satellite, at least in terms of altitude.

If it is successful, it might pave the way for similar craft to act as low-flying scouts to help access parts of Mars not reachable by ground travel. However, since Mars's atmosphere is just 1 percent of Earth's, a helicopter that's just sitting on the surface of the Red Planet is already at the equivalent of 100,000 feet on Earth. Yet if the Mars Helicopter does certainly fly, it'll have the ability to catch an unusual bird's- eye-view of Mars with its 2 electronic cameras, something that's never ever been done prior to. Its blades will spin almost 3,000 litres, approximately 10 times the rate employed by helicopters on the planet.

If Mars Helicopter works, it will constitute another space first for NASA, the first flight on another world.

After the helicopter is placed on the ground the rover will be directed to drive to a safe distance to relay commands. Once there, the chopper needs to find a suitable location, charge its batteries, complete all necessary tests and then, if all goes well, the aircraft will perform its first autonomous flight in history.

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"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".

The tiny autonomous rotorcraft will head to Earth's distant neighbour to demonstrate the viability and potential of heavier-than-air vehicles on another planet.

Mars 2020 is scheduled now to launch sometime in July 2020 with a landing slated for February 2021.

The strategy is for the Mars Helicopter to fly affixed to the bottom of the Mars 2020 vagabond. "The Mars Helicopter holds much promise for our future science, discovery, and exploration missions to Mars".

The rover will conduct geological assessments of its landing site on Mars, determine the habitability of the environment, search for signs of ancient Martian life, and assess natural resources and hazards for future human explorers.

The helicopter will attempt up to five flights, going farther and operating for longer each time - up to a few hundred meters and 90 seconds, officials said.