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NASA Will Send The First Helicopter On Mars

NASA Will Send The First Helicopter On Mars

NASA's Mars Helicopter, a small autonomous rotorcraft, will explore Mars with the 2020 rover as a technology demonstration for heavier-than-air vehicles on the Red Planet.

NASA is sending a light, autonomous rotorcraft, dubbed the Mars Helicopter, to demonstrate the viability of heavier-than-air vehicles on Mars and get a bird's eye view of the red planet. If unsuccessful, the Mars 2020 mission will not be impacted.

In a two-year survey of the solar neighborhood, TESS will monitor more than 200,000 stars for temporary drops in brightness caused by planetary transits.

After all, to them a helicopter is something which moves fast and low across the sky, so surely it would cover far more ground than a standard, wheeled rover?

Once it's there, the rover will drive to a suitable take-off site, detach the helicopter, and drive away. In the event it does work, helicopters may have a real future as low-flying scouts and aerial vehicles to access locations not reachable by ground travel.

The helicopter will ride to Mars attached to the rover's belly pan, officials said.

Because of its huge distance - Earth will be several minutes away, traveling at the speed of light - Aung said that direct control will be impossible.

Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA's Associate Administrator for science, said that the ability to see clearly what lies beyond the next hill is crucial for future explorers, and the views from a helicopter flying across Mars will also provide NASA with a stellar public relations tool as it seeks global support for sending humans to the planet in the 2030s or later. For starters the 'copter will climb to 3 meters, hover for 30 seconds, then descend.

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A small, autonomous helicopter could soon soar above the rusty rocks of Mars.

The Mars Helicopter is considered a high-risk, high-reward project, according to NASA: If the helicopter fails, it won't affect the rest of the Mars 2020 rover's mission, but if it succeeds, the agency will have a powerful new tool to survey the planet and access now unreachable locations.

"The ability to see clearly what lies beyond the next hill is crucial for future explorers".

In five decades of exploring Mars, NASA has sent orbiters, landers and rovers to explore Earth's neighbor.

But if this endeavor truly takes off (sorry) it could add a valuable and revealing new dimension to space exploration missions down the road.

The mission will also test a method for producing oxygen from the Martian atmosphere, identifying available resources, understanding the weather and other characteristics that will affect manned missions to the red planet.

The Mars 2020 Project at JPL in Pasadena, California, manages rover development for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington.