The team of researchers who were working on the Mars helicopter project has managed to complete the small vehicle in time. The helicopter will join a new rover on a Mars mission which should take place in 2020.
Before they can launch the device, the researchers need to see of the vehicle will be able to fly in the harsh Martian condition. To assess the potential of the instrument NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory division recreated the conditions which are present on the Red Planet with the help of the Space Simulator. Two different test flights were conducted, and the helicopter was able to complete them successfully.
It is known that the Martian atmosphere reaches less than 1% of the density encountered in the case of Earth’s atmosphere. This level of density can be met at an altitude of approximately 100,000 feet, but the researchers opted to use the simulator. The device is quite large, featuring a long vacuum cylinder with a width of 25 feet. Other instruments were tested with the help of the simulator, including the iconic Curiosity Rover.
NASA’s Mars helicopter would launch towards the Red Planet in 2020
The Martian atmosphere was replicated by sucking several gases from the chamber, including oxygen and nitrogen. A large amount of carbon dioxide was pumped in while a motorized lanyard tugged the helicopter. This step was necessary since the gravitational pool of Mars is on par with two-thirds of the gravitational field of our planet.
The vehicle managed to fly for one minute at a small distance of 2 inches above the ground, but the team was able to collect valuable data which proves that the device will be able to fly on Mars. Some of the vehicles which were tested in the chamber were mentioned, from smaller Ranger Moon probes to the well-known Voyager and Cassini probes which sent valuable data back to Earth as they traveled through space.
NASA plans to launch the two devices in 2020, and the agency hopes that they will be able to arrive on Mars in February 2021.