In an Interplanetary Initially, NASA to Fly a Helicopter on Mars

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In an Interplanetary Initially, NASA to Fly a Helicopter on Mars

The views from a helicopter flying across Mars will also provide Nasa with a stellar public relations tool as it seeks worldwide support for sending humans to the planet in the 2030s or later.

The helicopter and rover are scheduled to launch in July 2020 and land on Mars seven months later.

The Mars Helicopter weighs in at almost 4 pounds with a fuselage roughly the size of a softball and blades that spin 10 times the rate of an Earth-bound helicopter. A prototype has been tested in a chamber that mimics the Martian atmosphere at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The Martian atmosphere is so thin that the altitude of the helicopter at takeoff on Mars already corresponds to an altitude of 30,500 meters on Earth.

NASA officials said the rotorcraft will reach the Red Planet's surface attached to the car-sized rover. The vehicle will be called "Mars Helicopter".

The Mar's helicopter carries twin blades, which whirls about ten times the blades of the aircraft on the Earth's surface.

Controllers on Earth will command the helicopter to take its first autonomous flight after its batteries are charged and tests are conducted, NASA said. Because Mars is far away from Earth, with radio signals taking at least 20 minutes to cross interplanetary space, the Mars Helicopter will fly autonomously and not via a human operated joy stick as drones on Earth are controlled.

"To make it fly at that low atmospheric density, we had to scrutinise everything, make it as light as possible while being as strong and as powerful as it can possibly be", Ms Aung added.

Each of the planned flights on Mars will last as long as 90 seconds, Nasa said in an announcement issued at the same time Elon Musk's Space Exploration Technologies Corp., known as SpaceX, was launching a communications satellite for Bangladesh. Yes, when the administration launches its next rover to the red planet; it will have a small helicopter along for the ride. The rocket, which will accomplish the mission, is named as United Launch Alliance's Atlas V rocket. The vehicle will reach Mars by February 2021. "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".

Successful tests would open the door to more aerial observation and exploration during future missions, however.

The rover has six-wheels and is engineered to search for the habitable environments on the Martian surface.

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