NASA has confirmed its upcoming Mars 2020 rover will carry a small robotic passenger. However, flying on Mars is inherently more unsafe than rolling around. And amid all this speculation: could the first man on Mars.be a woman? "The Mars Helicopter holds much promise for our future science, discovery and exploration missions to Mars". As such, NASA is thinking of sending a flying drone to the red planet that will provide scientists an aerial view of the planet.
The Mars Helicopter is expected to touch down on the Martian surface in February 2021, piggybacking a car-sized rover - a bigger, upgraded version of the Curiosity rover. The six-wheeled rover will hunt for signs of habitable environments as well as sites that may have once hosted microbial life, examining the Red Planet with 23 cameras, a microphone and a drill to collect samples.
"After the Wright Brothers proved 117 years ago that powered, sustained, and controlled flight was possible here on Earth", he said, "another group of American pioneers may prove the same can be done on another world". If it does work, NASA will be able to build on the design for future Mars missions. With an atmosphere that is 100 times thinner than what we see here on Earth, the ability to create a Mars helicopter was a massive undertaking - but NASA has been working towards this goal in one capacity or another since 2013, making changes as needed in order to produce a craft that will get the job done.
The craft weighs less than 4 pounds, has a fuselage about the size of a softball and twin, counter-rotating blades that will spin at nearly 3,000 rpm - a necessity in the thin Martian atmosphere. Now, for the first time, NASA wants to send a helicopter to Mars, which is meant to fly in very rarefied Martian atmosphere.
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Solar cells will help the Mars Helicopter charge its lithium-ion batteries, and it's equipped with a heating mechanism to survive frigid Martian nights. If it crashes or doesn't work as well as hoped, the 2020 rover will still operate normally.
Since it still takes several minutes for the signal between Earth and Mars to reach the drone even when traveling at light speed, it's only natural to make the flying vehicle partially autonomous. Instead, the machine is created to receive pre-programmed commands from Earth, then execute them on its own, always autonomously navigating the environment in real-time.
According to Nasa, the full 30-day test campaign will include up to five flights of incrementally longer distances and durations, ranging up to a few hundred meters and as long as 90 seconds. It will also climb to 10 feet (3 m) and hover for about 30 seconds.
But if this endeavor truly takes off (sorry) it could add a valuable and revealing new dimension to space exploration missions down the road.