Mars Helicopter to Fly on NASA's Next Red Planet Rover Mission

NASA's upcoming mission to explore an alien planet is already set to fly a rover to Mars in 2020 and there's just enough room for a small helicopter to tag along for the ride. Solar cells will charge the tiny drone during the day, and an internal heater will help it endure the cold Martian nights.

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 3000rpm - about 10 times the rate of similar craft on Earth.But its light-weight construction was a challenge, and took the development team four years to design and test. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory has been working on the helicopter for over four years, but they were on the fence about actually sending it to Mars, but they have now made the decision to make it a part of the 2020 mission.

Scientists will remotely operate the craft all the way from Earth, in the same way a drone is operated. It is specifically created to fly in the atmosphere of Mars, which is 100 times thinner than Earth's.

"The idea of a helicopter flying the skies of another planet is thrilling", he added. Its counter-rotating blades will spin at nearly 3,000 rpm, about 10 times faster than a similar craft here on Earth. An helicopter on Mars, however, poses a special technical challenge. On reaching the Mars surface the rover will drive to a safer place.

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The strategy is for the Mars Helicopter to fly affixed to the bottom of the Mars 2020 vagabond. It's expected to reach the planet on February 2021. Controllers from Earth will deliver commands to the helicopter to take its first autonomous flight after its batteries are charged and tests are conducted.

Yet also if the helicopter can not fly, it will not impact the total goal of the Mars 2020 vagabond- the follower to NASA's Inquisitiveness vagabond which is now on the Red World's surface area. The rocket, which will accomplish the mission, is named as United Launch Alliance's Atlas V rocket. "The Mars Helicopter holds much promise for our future science, discovery, and exploration missions to Mars".

The rover has six-wheels and is engineered to search for the habitable environments on the Martian surface. Mars is about 20 light minutes away from Earth.

"Instead, we have an autonomous capability that will be able to receive and interpret commands from the ground, and then fly the mission on its own", she pointed out.

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