Nasa prepares drone for 2020 Mars rover mission

Posted May 13, 2018

NASA sends the first helicopter to space on its next mission to Mars, due to be launched in July 2020.

NASA officials also added that the rotorcraft will land on Mars attached to a car-sized rover.

A team of expert designers spent more than four years shrinking a working helicopter to just 1.8kg (4lbs) or roughly the size of a softball. That high blade rotation is important to get the helicopter airborne because of the low atmospheric density on Mars - when the drone's on the ground, it'll already be at an Earth-equivalent altitude of 100,000 feet.

Soviet scientists dropped two balloons into the atmosphere of Venus in the 1980s. The flying vehicle looks like a hybrid of a helicopter and a drone.

The Mars Helicopter's development began in 2013 at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California.

The remote-controlled Mars Helicopter, created to take flight in the thin Martian atmosphere with twin counter-rotating blades, weighs about four pounds (1.8 kilograms), with a fuselage the size of a softball, NASA said. The Mar's helicopter is accompanied with solar cells.

The remote-controlled Mars Helicopter is created to take flight in the thin Martian atmosphere with twin counter-rotating blades.

" NASA has a honored background of firsts", NASA Manager Jim Bridenstine stated in a declaration on Friday mid-day, in the center of SpaceX's Block 5 launch.

"The idea of a helicopter flying the skies of another planet is thrilling", he added. The mission of the helicopter is to demonstrate the viability and usefulness of such aircraft on Mars.

Pilots on Earth will control the next-generation aircraft for small test flights at first, and then gradually expand the range and duration as they determine its potential to scout and study previously inaccessible locations.

Mars 2020 will be launched on a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida and is expected to reach Mars in February 2021.

The aim is that the craft will carry out five flights, and would travel further each time, up to a few hundred meters for 90 seconds. "Instead, we have an autonomous capability that will be able to receive and interpret commands from the ground, and then fly the mission on its own".

The rover is created to carry out geological studies and ascertain the habitability of the Martian environment, NASA said.