Among NASA’s plans for Mars exploration is the Mars 2020 Rover Mission, a rover based on the Curiosity configuration that has brought so much joy to the agency. To this vehicle has just been added a small companion, the Mars Helicopter, a small chopper that the Americans have recently presented and with which they intend to get a bird’s eye view of the Red Planet.
To have a helicopter flying over the Martian skies will be unprecedented, as it would be the first vehicle of its kind and would provide a new way of gathering information from our neighboring planet.
The Mars Helicopter will be a 1.8 kgs autonomous vehicle, as the remote control is unfeasible due to the delay that the orders given from the ground would have.
Its design is composed of the main body and a double set of blades that will spin in opposite directions at almost 3,000 RPM. That’s about 10 times faster than any other helicopter.
NASA Mars Helicopter will journey to Mars in the belly of the Mars 2020 Rover
According to Advocator, once it lands on Mars, the helicopter will deploy and move away from the rover to a safe distance where it will begin charging its solar batteries and transmitting data. After performing the default checkups, it will be given the guidelines from Earth to initiate its first autonomous flight in history over a planet other than Earth.
NASA defines the project as “highly risky but highly rewarding”, meaning that it is complex to implement it but if the reward is achieved it will be worth it.
The intention is for up to five flights to be made over a period of 30 days, which will progressively go further, starting with flights of a few hundred meters to longer distances of up to 90 seconds.
Its first flight will be vertical, about 3 meters long and will last 30 seconds, which will be used to check all systems and prepare for future missions.
The mission will leave Earth in 2020, along with the Mars 2020 Rover, but will not reach its goal until next year, so if all goes well we will start to see the first images captured by the NASA Mars Helicopter in 2021.