NASA currently has two cars crossing Mars – the Opportver and Curiosity rovers. But the next one to send there will carry a vehicle with a new approach to planetary exploration: a helicopter.
The space agency announced on Friday its decision to add a small helicopter – about four pounds with a hull the size of a softball and blades just over three and a half meters from tip to tip ̵
"We are very excited and have the potential to open up a whole new paradigm for exploring Mars," said David Lavery, program director for solar system research at NASA Headquarters.
He compared it to Sojourner, NASA's first Mars rover, the size of a microwave oven and rolled around Mars in 1997. "That said," Hey, mobile exploration on another planet is not only possible, but also brings great value on how to do things, "said Mr. Lavery.
For his trip to Mars, the helicopter is at the bottom of the After the Rover has landed, the helicopter will be laid on the ground and the rover will travel 50 to 100 meters – close enough to stay in radio contact, far enough to not be jeopardized by any mishaps. The helicopter will make five short flights over 30 days, the first will be about 10 feet high and hovering for 30 seconds, later flights will be more ambitious, up to 90 seconds and a few hundred meters behind the helicopter will carry two cameras, one down and one forward In between flights, a solar panel charges its batteries.
Flying on the red planet is not easy, the thin air on the surface of the Ma rs equals 100,000 feet above Earth – far beyond the limits of terrestrial helicopters – though the weaker gravity helps. Two pairs of rotor blades rotate in opposite directions at almost 50 revolutions per second. A prototype was tested in a chamber that mimics the Martian atmosphere in NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
"We have been able to develop it so far that we can actually test the case on Mars in the Martian environment," Mr. Lavery said.
The $ 55 million project is not part of the main mission of Mars 2020, which is to look for signs of past life in the rocks of Mars.
It will be interesting to see what it really can do, "said Kenneth Farley, the mission's project scientist, about the helicopter.
After the 30 days of testing are over, the helicopter is left behind and the rover continues.
19659003] On future missions, a helicopter could serve as a scout to help a rover navigate or even take samples.
The Mars helicopter is not NASA's only proposal.
A New Frontier candidate NASA's competition would send a robotic drone to Titan, Saturn's largest moon, in The quadrocopter could perform detailed exploration of the various terrains of the Moon, including its hydrocarbons. "If NASA selects the mission next year over another finalist, it could possibly start as early as 2025.
Read previous reports on missions to study the Solar System ems