NASA helicopter to fly on Mars during next mission

Enlarge ImageA Mars Helicopter prototype undergoes some testing on Earth.                  Video screenshot by Amanda Kooser  CNET

It will be attached to the belly pan of the Mars 2020 rover, a wheeled robot that aims to determine the habitability of the Martian environment, search for signs of ancient life, and assess natural resources and hazards for future human explorers.

NASA is sending a tiny unmanned helicopter to Mars in a mission that could mark the first ever aircraft launch from another planet.

NASA Administrator Jim Brindenstine hailed the mission a "world first" and said: "The idea of a helicopter flying in the skies of another planet is thrilling".

"NASA has a proud history of firsts", added Bridenstine. The helicopter will certainly try to fly with the Martian air to see if cars could also rise on Mars, where the ambience is 100 times thinner compared to that of Planet.

Thomas Zurbuchen, Associate Administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, said the mission provided "a unique opportunity to advance Mars exploration for the future".

Designers have spent four years making the chopper that weighs just 4lb, about the size of a softball.

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The helicopter was particularly conceived for use on Mars featuring solar cells to charge its batteries, a heating mechanism for cold Martian nights and counter-rotating blades that function at 3,000 rpm, 10 times faster than helicopters on Earth. On Mars, however, the atmosphere at the surface is comparable to the Earth's atmosphere at 100,000 feet.

The helicopter is supposed to be used to achieve points on the surface of Mars, where you will not be able to get the Rover.

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. After the rover lands, the helicopter will be placed on the ground.

The full 30-day flight test campaign will include up to five flights of incrementally farther flight distances, up to a few hundred meters, and longer durations as long as 90 seconds, over a period. Mars is about 20 light minutes away from Earth. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Texas Monthly, the Austin American-Statesman, Damn Joan, and Community Impact Newspaper.

These images released by NASA show the surface of Mars.

The mission is scheduled to launch in July 2020 to study the implications of using "heavier-than-air vehicles" on the Red Planet.

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