May 27, 2018

Can a helicopter fly on Mars? NASA lays out its sci-fi plan

15 May 2018, 07:17 | Lucia Cruz

NASA plans autonomous helicopters to land on Mars in 2020

NASA depiction of the helicopter to travel on the Mars 2020 mission

The "Mars Helicopter", as NASA calls it, is a small autonomous rotorcraft that will demonstrate the viability and potential of heavier-than-air vehicles on the red planet.

Animation of Mars helicopter and Mars 2020 rover. The Mars Helicopter weighs just under four pounds, with a fuselage about as big as a softball.

In addition to packing in a huge amount of power into a small and unassuming body, the Mars helicopter is equipped with solar cells that will allow it to charge itself with sunlight as well as a built-in hearing instrument to keep it running seamlessly on cold Martian nights.

"To make it fly at that low atmospheric density, we had to scrutinize everything, make it as light as possible while being as strong and as powerful as it can possibly be", said Mimi Aung, Mars Helicopter project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Four years in the making, the NASA team finally decided that the autonomous helicopter can be sent to the Red Planet.

In order to take off, the tiny flying robot needs to spin it's two blades ten times faster - 3,000 times per minute - than it would on Earth while carrying batteries and other hardware crafted to be as light as possible. Our next rover to Mars will carry the first helicopter ever to fly over the surface of another world. Just imagine that hovering just 10 feet (3 m) above the Martian surface is like soaring at 100,000 feet (30,000 m) above Earth.

Here's what's on tap in today's primary election
Senate nomination, with the nominee apparently moving on to battle incumbent, unopposed Democrat Robert Casey the fall. The Republicans are Rick Saccone (who lost to Conor Lamb in the nationally watched special election) and Guy Reschenthaler.

But if it is successful, it will be the first step in using helicopters as aerial scouts for rovers. As soon as the rover is out of the area, the controllers at NASA will send out commands - which will take a few minutes to reach Mars - prompting the autonomous system integrated with the chopper to perform initial tests and then take to the skies.

"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", Aung said. However, if it does work, helicopters may have a real future in interplanetary exploration. Its first flight is meant to be short: just a 10-foot climb for 30 seconds before returning to the ground. It will do so attached to the belly pan of the Mars 2020 rover.

The craft will launch onboard the United Launch Alliance's Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida in July 2020 and is expected to arrive on Mars in February 2021.

To deliver soil samples from the surface of the red planet, developing a complex chain of engineering solutions. NASA is planning as many as five flights over a 30-day test campaign. If the program works as NASA expects, the agency would have a whole new way to explore the Martian surface.

But if this endeavor truly takes off (sorry) it could add a valuable and revealing new dimension to space exploration missions down the road.

Other News

Trending Now

Tesla vehicle in Autopilot mode crashes into fire truck in Utah
Tesla subsequently modified both the hardware and software used by the semi-autonomous system. Tesla has been dominating the news cycle as of late - and for all the wrong reasons.

Vodafone boss Vittorio Colao steps down after 10 years in charge
The announcement came as Vodafone reported an impressive set of results, including major organic growth, for the fourth quarter. Vodafone did not reveal the reason for the departure of Vittorio Colao, who tried to transform the telecom group.

Xiaomi planning separate camera division for its smartphones
Under the hood, the company would provide with the Qualcomm's Snapdragon 845 SoC, paired with at least 6 gigs of RAM on board. Redmi S2 comes with a 12 Megapixel primary and 5 Megapixel secondary rear camera with LED Flash and PDAF.

Paul pressured by GOP to confirm Haspel for Central Intelligence Agency head
In response, Kennedy calmly quipped: "ISIS can send anybody they want as long as they don't want them back". "It worked", Cheney told Maria Bartiromo in an interview that aired on Fox News' "Sunday Morning Futures ".

Second consecutive win shows Hamilton is on track finally
Mercedes now do not have any drivers under contract for 2019 as Valtteri Bottas is also in the final year of his current deal. Will it be Mercedes or Ferrari or Red Bull? The F1 bandwagon will roll into Monte Carlo for the Monaco Grand Prix on 27 May.

Fierce battle as Taliban militants besiege provincial capital
Radmanish, scores of militants have also joined the Taliban from the other parts of the country and the neighboring provinces. Earlier in May, Taliban fighters attacked Afghan bases in the province, killing more than 40 police officers and servicemen.

Daily chances for scattered storms this week
There is a slight chance for a shower or storm on Sunday and highs will be in the low 80s under mostly cloudy skies. Even still, there could be pockets of heavy rain, small hail and gusty winds - especially along the Palmer Divide.

Look! Amazon Go Stores Set To Open In Chicago & San Francisco
It is recently reported that Amazon had its eye on an Amazon Go location in San Francisco's Union Square neighborhood. Amazon is planning to open two more cashier-less Amazon Go grocery stores in Chicago and San Francisco .

Garver's 12th inning double propels Twins to win over Angels
Simmons cut the margin to 3-2 in the sixth and Upton got his second RBI in the seventh, driving in Calhoun to tie the score at 3. Twins: C Jason Castro will travel to Colorado on Monday and get a second opinion on the torn meniscus in his right knee.

Honor India To Launch New Mid-Range Smartphone On May 22
So the Honor 10's screen is ever so slightly larger, higher resolution and sharper, but it really is a very small difference. Bundled offers include Rs 5,000 on exchange of certain devices plus an additional Rs 3,000 off in certain situations.