NASA To Send Mini-Helicopter To Mars For First Interplanetary Travel

| May 13 , 2018 , 15:32 IST

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration has scrutinised Mars surface through several miniature dune buggies but now, they are looking forward to getting a birds-eye view of the planet. As a part of Mars 2020 rover, NASA will launch a small helicopter named the Mars Helicopter.

Flying through the through the Martian air, the remote-controlled chopper will see if vehicles can even levitate in the atmosphere which is 100 times thinner than that of Earth. The mini-helicopter with a fuselage the size of a softball has twin counter-rotating blades and weighs about four pounds.

"The altitude record for a helicopter flying here on Earth is about 40,000 feet. The atmosphere of Mars is only one percent that of Earth, so when our helicopter is on the Martian surface, it's already at the Earth equivalent of 100,000 feet up," Mimi Aung, the Mars Helicopter project manager stated.

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory was working on the design of Mars Helicopter for the last four years. Earlier, the agency was contemplating whether the idea of the chopper on Mars would actually work or not. Now, it is certain that even if the helicopter fails to fly, it won’t affect the mission of the Mars 2020 rover.

If the chopper does fly, it’ll capture a rare birds-eye-view of Mars with two cameras and will open gates for sending future flying vehicles to Mars to scout out locations that are hard to access. Engineers at JPL are currently working to get the helicopter's weight and shape of the just right.

Attached to the Mars Rover, the chopper will be dropped at a suitable place from where it will try to take off. Due to Earth's distance from Mars, it will take several minutes to send the helicopter commands. The vehicle will do five autonomous flights over a 30-day period, each lasting up to 90 seconds.