The primary helicopter designed to fly on one other planet is now on its approach to Mars.
NASA’s Mars helicopter, referred to as Ingenuity, is hitching a journey to the Pink Planet with the company’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover, which lifted off on an Atlas V rocket from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Pressure Station immediately (July 30).
Tucked beneath the rover’s stomach, Ingenuity will spend the following six months en path to Mars. The mission is scheduled to land on Mars on Feb. 18, 2021, and inside the subsequent few months the rotorcraft will try the first-ever flight by means of one other planet’s environment.
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“We as human beings have by no means flown or rotorcraft exterior of our personal Earth’s environment, so this can really be a really a lot a Wright Brothers second, besides on one other planet,” Mimi Aung, NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter undertaking supervisor, mentioned in a information convention on Tuesday (July 28).
Whereas NASA and different house businesses around the globe have despatched landers, orbiters and rovers to the Pink Planet, nobody has tried to fly an plane on one other planet earlier than. On Mars the environment is far thinner than it’s on Earth, which suggests there’s much less air to generate elevate and extra technical challenges in designing a craft that can keep aloft.
“Flying a rotorcraft at Mars may be very tough. Before everything, the environment there’s very skinny, about 1% in comparison with the Earth’s atmospheric density right here,” Aung mentioned. “To construct a automobile that may fly at Mars, it must be very mild and be capable to spin very quick.”
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Ingenuity weighs about four lbs. (1.eight kilograms) and has two counter-rotating blades that measure about four toes (1.2 meters) lengthy. These blades ought to spin at a charge of about 2,400 revolutions per minute, NASA mentioned in Ingenuity’s mission description. To check the helicopter, NASA simulated the Martian environment in a testing chamber on the company’s Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, California.
Whereas Ingenuity is just an experimental mission — its main goal is to check powered flight on Mars — a profitable flight may form the way forward for exploration on Mars.
For robotic missions just like the Perseverance rover, helicopters may scout the Martian terrain and assist plan driving routes. With that very same aerial view, rotorcraft may be used to check the planet’s geology from a special perspective, and so they may even assist astronauts discover Mars sometime, NASA mentioned.
“This Mars helicopter Ingenuity may result in the opening up of an entire new approach to discover house” and to take “exploration missions to the aerial dimension,” Aung mentioned.
E-mail Hanneke Weitering at [email protected] or comply with her @hannekescience. Observe us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Fb.