Mars Helicopter to Fly on NASA's Next Red Planet Rover Mission


NASA now has two cars roaming Mars - the Opportunity and Curiosity rovers.

"The ability to see clearly what lies beyond the next hill is crucial for future explorers", said Thomas Zurbuchen, Associate Administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate at the agency headquarters in Washington.

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".

The helicopter will ride with the rover attached to its underbelly, notes the report. The chopper is also light, weighing a little under four pounds (1.8 kilograms). "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. The tiny helicopter will test the capabilities for controlled flight in the thin atmosphere of Mars and is also expected to pave the way for future uses across the solar system.

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. The mission of the helicopter is to demonstrate the viability and usefulness of such aircraft on Mars.

The Mars 2020 rover mission has been scheduled to release in July 2020 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida and hit Mars in February 2021.

It is specifically created to fly in the atmosphere of Red Planet which is 100 times thinner than Earth's. On reaching the Mars surface the rover will drive to a safer place. Controllers on the planet will control the helicopter to shoot its initial autonomous airport after its batteries have been charged and evaluations are all ran, NASA explained. The full 30-day flight test campaign will include up to five flights of incrementally farther flight distances. Mars is about 20 light minutes away from Earth.

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. The rover is created to carry out geological reports also to ascertain the habitability of this Martian environment, NASA explained.