A Ride to Mars...NASA to send Helicopter

A Ride to Mars…NASA to send Helicopter

An announcement from NASA officials on May 11 stated that the space agency’s next mission to Mars will include an autonomous small helicopter. Furthermore, to show that travel by an aircraft which is heavier than air is feasible on the red planet, the aircraft will undergo a 30-day trial run on reaching there. This will be a huge milestone as far as the prospect of exploration and discovery on Mars is concerned in the years to come. The idea itself is exciting as acknowledged by NASA’s administrator, Jim Bridenstine.

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California started building the 4-pound helicopter which is about as big as a football. Equipped with solar cells to charge up in sunlight, the craft will survive chilling nights on the red planet by means of a heating mechanism. Mars’ atmosphere is also a lot thinner in comparison (1%) to our own and thus, the blades of the helicopter will rotate at 10 times the speed at which they would on Earth at 3000 rpm which will allow it to fly there. A lot of work has gone into making the helicopter this light and still include whatever is vital for it to function and gather necessary data.

The mission itself, called Mars 2020 is due to be launched in July of the same year and should arrive on Mars seven months later. There will be a six-wheeled rover with 23 cameras, drills for sample collection and a microphone to scout for areas where microbes might have once lived and hence be suitable for inhabitation.

The helicopter will be autonomously controlled as the sheer distance from the Earth rules out the possibility of manually controlling it. NASA helicopter can be called a gamble and if it pays off, it could enable them to take more detailed look into the planet and reach areas which were previously inaccessible. If it doesn’t, the failure won’t affect the overall mission by much.

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