With the deliberate launch date simply 16 months away, pleasure is rising amongst area followers wanting ahead to the Mars 2020 mission.
After asserting the profitable debut take a look at drive of the Mars 2020 rover final week, NASA adopted up on Thursday, March 28, with information of the very first flight trials of the particular Mars Helicopter that can accompany the rover on its journey to the Crimson Planet subsequent yr.
“The following time we fly, we fly on Mars,” mentioned MiMi Aung, venture supervisor for the Mars Helicopter at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, the place the take a look at flights came about.
The autonomous flying machine will assist NASA to search out fascinating analysis websites on Mars, and in addition present information for mapping routes for future rovers on the Martian floor.
Its efficiency on the planet can even assist NASA to refine the plane’s design in order that it could actually create extra succesful helicopters for Mars and different planetary missions.
The diminutive helicopter ideas the scales at simply four kilos (1.eight kg) and options 4 rotors, every one slightly over a meter lengthy. At its core is a small, box-like fuselage, and it’s right here the place you’ll discover the machine’s downward-facing digicam. Photo voltaic cells and batteries maintain the helicopter’s energy wants, whereas an inside heater ought to assist it address the planet’s dramatic drop in temperature at evening.
The current Mars Helicopter take a look at came about inside JPL’s House Simulator, a 25-foot-wide (7.62-meter-wide) vacuum chamber. To create situations just like these discovered on Mars, the workforce ready the chamber by sucking out all of the nitrogen, oxygen, and different gases from the air inside, earlier than changing it with carbon dioxide, the chief ingredient of Mars’ ambiance.
It additionally needed to discover a solution to simulate the weaker gravity discovered on Mars.
“To really simulate flying on Mars we have now to remove two-thirds of Earth’s gravity, as a result of Mars’ gravity is that a lot weaker,” mentioned Teddy Tzanetos, take a look at conductor for the Mars Helicopter at JPL.
It was in a position to obtain this with the creation of a so-called “gravity offload system” — a motorized lanyard hooked up to the highest of the helicopter to offer an uninterrupted tug equal to two-thirds of Earth’s gravity.
Two take a look at flights came about, every one taking the helicopter to an altitude of a mere 2 inches, which was sufficient for the workforce to verify that it may fly autonomously in a skinny, Mars-like ambiance.
The Mars Helicopter will launch with the rover on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket in July subsequent yr and is predicted to succeed in the distant planet in February 2021.
Commenting on its high-tech plane final yr, NASA’s Thomas Zurbuchen mentioned: “We have already got nice views of Mars from the floor in addition to from orbit. With the added dimension of a chook’s-eye view from a ‘marscopter,’ we are able to solely think about what future missions will obtain.”