Together with the new all-terrain vehicle mission Mars-2020, NASA scientists will send a miniature helicopter to the Red Planet. This will be the first time that flying drones are used to explore other worlds.
What is known?
Mars Helicopter was developed by the NASA JPL Jet Propulsion Laboratory in 2013. In the final version, the "body" of the drone has the dimensions of an orange, and its two screws rotate in opposite directions at a speed of 3000 rpm - about 10 times faster than that of conventional helicopters. And all because of the low density of the atmosphere of Mars. Near the surface of the planet, the air pressure is equivalent to the earth's air at an altitude of 30 kilometers, and more effort is needed to take off. The device is also equipped with solar panels and a heating system that will help him survive the cold Martian nights.
After arriving on Mars, the rover will drop the drone and depart to the safe distance from which the command will be sent. During the first test flight, the helicopter will rise to a height of three meters and hang over one point for 30 seconds. Over the next 30 days, four more launches are planned, during which NASA will gradually increase the flight distance to several hundred meters and the operating time to 90 seconds. Even if none of this will work, the main program of Mars-2020 will not suffer.
Why is it important?
Drones will help rovers navigate the terrain, photographing the surface from a bird's eye view. And they could also explore areas where they could not reach the ground-based apparatus.
The delivery of the rover and helicopter is scheduled for July 2020. They will not reach Mars until seven months after launch. The main goal of the mission is to search for signs of life. Scientists also want to prepare soil samples for further delivery to Earth.