It has been just reported the fact that China has revealed a foldable Mars helicopter that can return samples to Earth. Check out more interesting details about the matter below.
China makes huge tech progress
China is developing a “foldable” Mars helicopter that could assist in retrieving samples from the Red Planet in a future mission. Until recently, rovers like Nasa’s Curiosity or China’s Zhurong have mainly explored unfamiliar terrain on wheels and have remained stationary. However, in 2021, Nasa’s Ingenuity Mars helicopter succeeded beyond expectations by conducting several groundbreaking flights on the Red Planet.
The 1.8kg chopper successfully demonstrated vertical takeoff and powered flight on Mars, serving as a promising model for future aerial explorers of the Red Planet.
China has proposed developing a quadcopter capable of assisting in returning rock samples from Mars, as revealed by a recent study. Developing rotor crafts for Mars poses a challenge of having them take off and maintain controlled flight in a thin Martian atmosphere where surface air pressure can be as low as that seen at an altitude of 30-40km on Earth.
Following the success of NASA’s Ingenuity, China’s MarsBird-VII is a quadcopter with four sets of blades that are designed to have enhanced lift and performance.
According to scientists from the Harbin Institute of Technology, MarsBird-VII is a Mars quadcopter capable of independent aerial exploration with a rated take-off weight of 4kg. Unlike Ingenuity, the quadcopter can collect a sample weighing up to 100g and return it to its mission lander.
The quadcopter design has four sets of blades in each corner of the rover and can also be folded and transported to Mars.
The quadcopter has a “lightweight structure and a fully functional guidance, navigation and control (GNC) system” to help it fly autonomously in the thin atmosphere of Mars, said researchers.
It also has a robotic arm to help it pick up rock samples.
“A foldable Mars quadcopter improves the efficiency and flexibility of Mars sample return tasks,” they wrote in the study published in the journal Acta Astronautica as per The Independent.
Helicopters are expected to fill the gap between the large-scale birds-eye view observation provided by orbiters, and the local observations that rovers provide.
They can traverse faster and farther than ground rovers, and are capable of accessing steep and complex landforms. The Chinese scientists who conducted the study believe that the MarsBird-VII helicopter provides a viable engineering approach for Mars flight exploration and sample return.