Nasa will send helicopter to Mars to test otherworldly flight

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"Exploring the Red Planet with NASA's Mars Helicopter exemplifies a successful marriage of science and technology innovation and is a unique opportunity to advance Mars exploration for the future", Thomas Zurbuchen, Associate Administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, says in a statement.

The helicopter is the result of four years of testing and redesigning a standard helicopter to shrink it down to an object that weighs a little less than four pounds.

The helicopter consists of solarcells to charge its lithium-ion batteries and also a heating mechanism to keep it warm throughout frigid evenings.

After the rover lands, it will place the helicopter on the ground and retreat to a safe distance. Controllers on Earth will command the Mars Helicopter, which was created to receive and interpret commands from the ground. After its batteries are charged and a myriad of tests are performed, controllers on Earth will command the Mars Helicopter to take its first autonomous flight into history.

NASA's next Mars mission will have a helicopter onboard.

NASA released an animated video of the helicopter zipping around Mars to the tune of a heart-pounding soundtrack. The mission is scheduled to take off on the United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral in Florida, and reach Mars in February 2021.

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The Mars Helicopter will bear no resemblance to the ones that hover nearly constantly in the skies above Los Angeles and tracking vehicle chases.

This self-portrait of NASA's Curiosity Mars rover shows the vehicle on Vera Rubin Ridge, Mars.

Up to five flights are planned over the 30-day test campaign, starting with a flight where the helicopter will ascent to an altitude of three meters and hover for 30 seconds. The helicopters blades will rotate at up to 3,000 revolutions per minute, 10 times the rate of a terrestrial helicopter.

Due to the atmospheric difference between Earth and Mars, the helicopter will be the equivalent of 100,000 feet in the air at home when it is on the ground on Mars.

"We don't have a pilot, and Earth will be several light-minutes away, so there is no way to joystick this mission in real time", Aung said.

"We already have great views of Mars from the surface as well as from orbit.With the added dimension of a bird's-eye view from a 'marscopter, ' we can only imagine what future missions will achieve".

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