"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.
CAPE CANAVERAL-In one of his first decisions since joining NASA, newly named administrator Jim Bridenstine has opted to add a small autonomous helicopter to the Mars 2020 mission, a somewhat controversial choice that lacked support from project scientists.
Mars Helicopter weighs about 1.8 kilograms and has a cubical fuselage similar in size to a softball.
The helicopter consists of solarcells to charge its lithium-ion batteries and also a heating mechanism to keep it warm throughout frigid evenings. The rover then will be driven away from the helicopter to a safe distance from which it will relay commands. The tiny helicopter will test the capabilities for controlled flight in the thin atmosphere of Mars and is also expected to pave the way for future uses across the solar system.
"NASA has a proud history of firsts", added Bridenstine.
The Martian helicopter will travel with the mission of the Rover of Mars 2020, announced the space agency. Controllers on the planet will control the helicopter to shoot its initial autonomous airport after its batteries have been charged and evaluations are all ran, NASA explained.
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The helicopter will attempt up to five flights, going farther and operating for longer each time - up to a few hundred meters and 90 seconds, officials said.
Double screw Mars Helicopter is able to rotate at a speed 10 times the speed of the earth's helicopters.
The helicopter faces a number of technical challenges, including being able to generate lift in atmospheric densities equivalent to an altitude of 30 kilometers on Earth, more than double the altitude record for a conventional helicopter.
The Mars Helicopter is being envisioned as a major advancement for future exploration of the planet, providing a new way of exploring areas of the Mars surface that are not easily accessible by land.
NASA will test the drone for 30 days to see how it performs in an environment unlike Earth.