A mini helicopter is expected to fly with NASA's Mars 2020 rover mission. The mission is scheduled to launch in July next year and land on the Red Planet in February 2021. The Mars Helicopter weighs about 1.8 kilograms and has a body about the size of a softball. It has a small solar panel, rechargeable lithium-ion batteries. Success in this pioneering work would be a big deal, extending the reach of humanity's robotic explorers, which are currently restricted to the surfaces of alien worlds or the dark realms far above them, according to Space.com report.
“NASA has a proud history of firsts,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “The idea of a helicopter flying the skies of another planet is thrilling. The Mars Helicopter holds much promise for our future science, discovery, and exploration missions to Mars.”
"We envision helicopters opening doors to new types of exploration on Mars," Havard Grip, flight-control and aerodynamics lead for the Mars Helicopter, said Wednesday (March 20) during a presentation with NASA's Future In-Space Operations (FISO) working group.
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"In the future, we could imagine doing things like [engaging in] regional exploration using multiple helicopters or going to inaccessible areas or biologically sensitive areas using small helicopters," he said.
The helicopter doesn't have any science instruments, but it is outfitted with a high-resolution colour imager.
"That's, so to speak, the payload," Grip said. "That's what we [use to] take pretty pictures and send them back to Earth."
To generate enough lift, the Mars Helicopter sports two stiff rotors that measure 3.9 feet (1.2 m) long — pretty much as big as the team could make them, Grip said.
"The Mars Helicopter's initial flight will represent that planet's version of the Wright brothers' achievement at Kitty Hawk and the opening of a new era," Susan Gorton, manager of NASA's Revolutionary Vertical Lift Technology project, which has been working with the Mars Helicopter team, said in a statement last week.
(With inputs from agencies)