NASA flying helicopter to Mars using remote control

NASA's Mars Helicopter

A remote-controlled helicopter to Mars Helicopter weighs 1.8 kg and the size of a small ball.

That will change in 2020 once NASA sends an autonomous flying "rotorcraft" to Mars to go exploring where no rover can check out on foot (or on wheels), which is naturally named the Mars Helicopter.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine described the prospect of a helicopter flying the skies of another planet as "thrilling", while Zurbuchen compared the mission to the Wright brothers pioneering flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, in 1903. After that, however, the helicopter will be on its own, flying autonomously.

"We don't have a pilot and Earth will be several light minutes away, so there is no way to joystick this mission in real time", says Mimi Aung, the Mars Helicopter project manager. According to the agency, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, has been working on the "marscopter" project since August 2013.

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The remote Mars Helicopter, created to carry flight in the thin Martian setting with twin counter-rotating bladesthat weighs about four pounds (1.8 kilograms), with a fuselage the size of a softball, NASA explained.

It will also have solar cells to charge its lithium-ion batteries, and a heating mechanism to keep it warm through the cold Martian nights.

That extra boost is necessary, because most Earth helicopters would be completely unable to travel in Mars' thin atmosphere.

The primary goal of the Mars 2020 rover is to investigate a to-be-determined ancient environment on Mars that could have hosted past or present-day bacterial life.

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Once on Mars, NASA plans to deploy the helicopter for a 30-day flight test campaign with up to five flights covering progressively greater distances. After placing the helicopter on earth, the rover is going to be told to drive to a safe space to relay orders.

Once the Mars Helicopter has landed on the surface of Mars, controllers back on Earth will command it to take its first autonomous flight.

That would be a boon to any future missions to take samples on Mars and return them to Earth for analysis.

The Mars Helicopter is considered a high-risk, high-reward project, according to NASA: If the helicopter fails, it won't affect the rest of the Mars 2020 rover's mission, but if it succeeds, the agency will have a powerful new tool to survey the planet and access now unreachable locations. This is meant to demonstrate the viability and usefulness of such aircraft on Mars.

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These images released by NASA show the surface of Mars. The mission is predicted to reach Mars in February 2021. The rover is created to carry out geological reports also to ascertain the habitability of this Martian environment, NASA explained.

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