Science

NASA's Mars Helicopter has passed another flight test

NASA's Mars Helicopter has passed another flight test”

NASA installed a live bird's-eye view of NASA's Mars 2020 rover as it takes shape at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

The Mars Helicopter returned to JPL on May 11, 2019, for further testing and finishing touches.

For each of these potential dangers NASA has developed ingenious solutions created to keep its rover healthy and able to scour the surface - and in the case of the 2020 rover, the subsurface of Mars - for clues that will help unravel the mysteries still held by the Red Planet. The helicopter flight demonstration has passed a number of key tests as planned, without any trouble and is now close to final approval for launch.

It will deliver a technological feat by demonstrating a controlled flight on Mars, a planet whose atmospheric density is 1% the density of Earth's. Unlike the rover, the helicopter will not carry any scientific instruments, its main objective will be to prove that heavier-than-air vehicles can operate in the thin Martian atmosphere, which has about 1 percent the density of Earth's gaseous envelope.

"Nobody's built a Mars Helicopter before, so we are continuously entering new territory", MiMi Aung, manager of the Mars Helicopter project at JPL, said in a statement. Then it was moved to a Lockheed Martin Space facility in Denver.

So far, the Mars Helicopter has been tested in high-vibration environments that simulate launch and landing conditions, extreme temperatures like those found on the surface of Mars, and electrical and mechanical system integrity testing. Once the rover is on the surface, it will deploy the helicopter. Now, researchers are hopeful that the Mars chopper will become the first heavier-than-air vehicle to fly on another planet when the mission reaches the Red Planet in 2021. When it lands in Jezero Crater on February 18, 2021, the rover will also be the first spacecraft in the history of planetary exploration with the ability to accurately retarget its point of touchdown during the landing sequence. The helicopter's sole instrument is a high-resolution camera that, NASA hopes, will capture some lovely shots of the Red Planet and relay them back to Earth.

A newly-installed clean room webcam at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, is giving members of the public a front row seat as technicians and engineers assemble the Mars 2020 rover.

The Mars Helicopter has no science instruments aboard; its sole mission is to prove if powered flight can happen on Mars. It is because they can now afford great flexibility to relocate to new areas in short periods of time.



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