NASA is sending its first autonomous helicopter to Mars in 2020

NASA is sending its first autonomous helicopter to Mars in 2020

The experimental, softball-sized drone would be the first airborne vehicle to fly around within Mars' atmosphere other than the landers that have delivered other, ground-based rovers.

NASA hopes to launch the prototype to Mars with the agency's 2020 rover, which is created to hunt for signs of past life on the red planet.

In a press release, NASA said the Mars Helicopter is "considered a high-risk, high-reward project".

"NASA has a proud history of firsts", NASA's administrator, Jim Bridenstine, said in a statement.

Once the helicopter is transported to Mars by way of the rover, it will begin flying around the planet on its own. "The Mars Helicopter holds much promise for our future science, discovery, and exploration missions to Mars". It is being done at the NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California.

The remote-controlled Mars Helicopter, created to take flight in the thin Martian atmosphere with twin counter-rotating blades, weighs about 1.8 kilograms, with a fuselage the size of a softball, NASA said. Solar cells will charge its lithium-ion batteries.

"The altitude record for a helicopter flying here on Earth is about 40,000 feet [12,000 meters]", MiMi Aung, Mars Helicopter project manager at JPL, said in the statement.

Due to the atmospheric difference between Earth and Mars, the helicopter will be the equivalent of 100,000 feet in the air at home when it is on the ground on Mars.

The strategy is for the Mars Helicopter to fly affixed to the bottom of the Mars 2020 vagabond.

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

NASA says it hopes to fly the aircraft incrementally father and longer in the four subsequent test flights, with distances up to a few hundred meters and durations as long as 90 seconds.

But JPL has made sure that the Mars Helicopter has everything it needs to fearless the rough environment on the Red Planet. It will also climb to 10 feet (3 m) and hover for about 30 seconds.

Even if the aerial project flops on arrival, it won't hurt the main Mars 2020 rover mission, which is scheduled for launch in the summer of that year to land in February 2021. Indeed, future Mars settlements could be constructed within the caverns, protected from the harsh conditions of the Martian surface. The rover is created to carry out geological studies and ascertain the habitability of the Martian environment, NASA said. "This is a process that has taken place at NASA Headquarters to decide whether the helicopter should be flown".

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