On Friday, NASA announced that it is planning to send the Mars Helicopter to the planet with the recently announced 2020 Rover. The organization is planning to launch the mentioned vehicles in two-years time from Florida.
The ability to fly around the Red Planet’s thin atmosphere at low altitude will give scientists a new perspective. Flying with the aircraft will allow to observe Mars from above, from a new vantage point.
NASA is no newbie when talking about firsts and this time is no exception. Flying the Helicopter on Mars will be the first such attempt of the mankind. It will be the first time that heavier-than-air craft will be attempted to be flown in the atmosphere that is not Earth’s.
The mission of the Helicopter will be to make five test flights on the Red Planet as it lands with the 2020 rover. The landing is expected in February, 2021.
To be able to take off and fly in the Mars’ atmosphere, the helicopter’s blades will have to turn at about 3000 revolutions per minute. More than 10 times faster than on Earth.
Mimi Aung, the Mars Helicopter project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory stated at the news release: “The altitude record for a helicopter flying here on Earth is about 40,000 feet. The atmosphere of Mars is only 1% that of Earth, so when our helicopter is on the Martian surface, it’s already at the Earth equivalent of 100,000 feet up.” She also added: “To make it fly at that low atmospheric density, we had to scrutinize everything, make it as light as possible while being as strong and as powerful as it can possibly be.”
Associate administrator for NASA’s science mission directorate in Washington Thomas Zurbuchen said: “After the Wright Brothers proved 117 years ago that powered, sustained, and controlled flight was possible here on Earth, another group of American pioneers may prove the same can be done on another world.”