Enlarge ImageA Mars Helicopter prototype undergoes some testing on Earth. Video screenshot by Amanda Kooser CNET
12 May, 2018, 21:31
It goes on to show some actual flight test footage of how the machine would operate in a Mars-like atmosphere.
The MarsHelicopter is billed by NASA as a "technology demonstration" to prove that such aerial vehicles can be flown above the surface of other worlds, showing that they can be deployed as "low-flying scouts".
"The ability to see clearly what lies beyond the next hill is crucial for future explorers", Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington, D.C., said in a statement released by the agency.
A successful test could open the door to using helicopters as scouts on future missions, surveying terrain that might be hard for rovers to navigate and even accessing locations that are unreachable via ground travel. Jim Bridenstine is an administrator at the National Aeronautical and Space Administration.
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory has been developing the helicopter since 2013, and eventually shrunk the fuselage to around the size of a softball to help make the drone viable.
This small helicopter weighing 1.8 kilograms would be remote-controlled.
Is it insane to think we can fly a helicopter on another planet? The solar cells are used for charging up the vehicle in the sunlight. It's also limited to the open expanses of the planet. Those commands will take several minutes to reach the helicopter from Earth, so it will need some autonomous capabilities to make sure it can fly on its own, without anyone controlling it in real time. The rate of blade whirling is three thousand rpm.
The helicopter will ride to Mars attached to the rover's belly pan, officials said. It's expected to reach the planet on February 2021. 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. It will also include the search for the places that hosts or ever hosted the microflora. Just like the twin MarCO CubeSats now on their way to the Red Planet as part of the historic InSight mission, the "marscopter" is a trailblazer meant to demonstrate that the technology can be used in exploration missions.
"We already have great views of Mars from the surface as well as from orbit.With the added dimension of a bird's-eye view from a 'marscopter, ' we can only imagine what future missions will achieve".
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