Exciting progress on NASA’s next Mars mission

earthsky.org | 6/18/2019 | Deborah Byrd
loranseenloranseen (Posted by) Level 3
Click For Photo: https://en.es-static.us/upl/2019/06/mars-helicopter-test-300x169.jpg

With its thin atmosphere and low gravity, Mars offers unique challenges for those who want to fly an aircraft there. But – as part of its Mars 2020 mission – NASA has developed a technology demonstration for a heavier-than-air vehicle on the red planet. NASA said on June 6, 2019, that its Mars Helicopter flight demonstration project has now successfully passed a number of key tests. It said:

The small, autonomous helicopter will be the first vehicle in history to attempt to establish the viability of heavier-than-air vehicles flying on another planet.

Test - Flight - Surface - Mars - MiMi

That first test flight above the surface of Mars is scheduled for 2021. MiMi Aung, project manager for the Mars Helicopter at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, said:

Nobody’s built a Mars Helicopter before, so we are continuously entering new territory. Our flight model – the actual vehicle that will travel to Mars – has recently passed several important tests.

View - Image - Flight - Model - NASA

View larger. | This image of the flight model of NASA’s Mars Helicopter was taken on Feb. 14, 2019, in a cleanroom at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. The aluminum base plate, side posts, and crossbeam around the helicopter protect the helicopter’s landing legs and the attachment points that will hold it to the belly of the Mars 2020 rover. Image via NASA/JPL-Caltech.

NASA explained:

January - Team - Flight - Model - Environment

Back in January 2019 the team operated the flight model in a simulated Martian environment. Then the helicopter was moved to Lockheed Martin Space in Denver for compatibility testing with the Mars Helicopter Delivery System, which will hold the 4-pound (1.8-kilogram) spacecraft against the belly of the Mars 2020 rover during launch and interplanetary cruise before deploying it onto the surface of Mars after landing.

As a technology demonstrator, the Mars Helicopter carries no science instruments. Its purpose is to confirm that powered flight in the...
(Excerpt) Read more at: earthsky.org
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