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NASA flying helicopter to Mars using remote control

12 May 2018

Scientists want to test how "heavier-than-air vehicles" will operate on the red planet, Nasa said in a release.

It is specifically created to fly in the atmosphere of Mars, which is 100 times thinner than Earth's.

Mars Helicopter weighs about 1.8 kilograms and has a cubical fuselage similar in size to a softball.

"We don't have a pilot and Earth will be several light minutes away, so there is no way to joystick this mission in real time", says Mimi Aung, the Mars Helicopter project manager. After placing the helicopter on earth, the rover is going to be told to drive to a safe space to relay orders. 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.

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NASA stated it intends that the 30day flight test interval which could include as many as five flights, so starting with a brief vertical jaunt to hover for around 30 seconds at a elevation of 10 feet (3 meters) and progressing to flight distances upto a couple hundred yards and durations up to 90 seconds.

In what appears to be a new tradition of sending pioneering technology demonstrations on its high-profile interplanetary missions, the agency has just unveiled its plans to extend the payload of the Mars 2020 mission and send a helicopter to the Red Planet.

Unlike NASA's other rovers, the InSight Mars lander is a stationary probe that is created to examine Mars's interior and study how tectonically active it is.

Due to the atmospheric difference between Earth and Mars, the helicopter will be the equivalent of 100,000 feet in the air at home when it is on the ground on Mars. "We are working very hard for efficiencies and spending 30 days working on a technology demonstration that does not further those goals directly, from the science point of view, is a tradeoff that has to be made".

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"The ability to see clearly what lies beyond the next hill is crucial for future explorers ... with the added dimension of a bird's-eye view from a "Marscopter", we can only imagine what future missions will achieve", Mr Zurbuchen said.

We can wait for what the Mars 2020 mission will explore the Red Planet.

So, what exactly is the Mars Helicopter?

Instead, the helicopter will "fly the mission on its own".

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That would be a boon to any future missions to take samples on Mars and return them to Earth for analysis. It is being done at the NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California. "If it does work, helicopters may have a real future as low-flying scouts and aerial vehicles to access locations not reachable by ground travel", NASA said in its statement.

NASA flying helicopter to Mars using remote control