gpolit.com
gpolit.com May 24, 2018


Nasa will send helicopter to Mars to test otherworldly flight

13 May 2018, 02:13 | Camille Rivera

NASA's Mars HelicopterImage nasa

NASA's Mars Helicopter

The thin air at the surface of Mars is the equivalent of being 100,000 feet above Earth - well beyond the limits of terrestrial helicopters - although the weaker gravity helps. After placing the helicopter on the ground, the rover will be directed to drive to a safe distance to relay commands.

Flying on the red planet is not easy. According to NASA employees, at the moment, the experts identified the main scientific tasks for the helicopter, but the idea of flying such a device on another planet is just fascinating.

No nation has ever flown a helicopter on Mars before.

The Mars 2020 mission, scheduled for launch aboard an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral in July 2020, is expected to reach the red planet in February 2021.

Thomas Zurbuchen, Associate Administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, said the mission provided "a unique opportunity to advance Mars exploration for the future".

The remote-controlled Mars Helicopter, created to take flight in the thin Martian atmosphere with twin counter-rotating blades, weighs about four pounds (1.8 kilograms), with a fuselage the size of a softball, NASA said.

The 1.8 kilogram (3.9 pound) chopper is "a high-risk, high-reward project", the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) said in a statement on Friday.

NASA officials explained the rotorcraft will hit the Red Earth's surface connected with the car-sized rover.

The helicopter consists of solarcells to charge its lithium-ion batteries and also a heating mechanism to keep it warm throughout frigid evenings.

If the mission proves successful, helicopters will be used in future missions to planets to access locations not reachable by ground travel.

If Mars Helicopter works, it will constitute another space first for NASA, the first flight on another world. Mars is about 20 light minutes away from Earth.

Plans are being laid for a 30-day flight test, with five flights going incrementally further each time, up to a few hundred yards (metres).

"We're very excited about this and the potential it has for opening up a whole new paradigm for how to explore Mars", said David Lavery, the program executive for solar system exploration at NASA headquarters.

"We already have great views of Mars from the surface as well as from 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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