NASA wants to fly a helicopter on Mars in 2021
NASA has big plans for the March mission of 2020: they not only want to send a Rover (as they always do) but for that mission, a helicopter is also sent to the red planet. We are logically not talking about a helicopter as you might imagine, but about a remote-controlled small machine without a stabilization rotor. Why they do not just call it a drone is not clear.
That aside you might wonder: can a helicopter fly on Mars at all? A normal one would not be able to, because there is not enough atmosphere on Mars. That’s why NASA has come up with a model that has twin propellers that spin against each other with a speed of 3000 revolutions per minute, that’s about ten times as fast as helicopters do here. It is a big challenge, say NASA scientists. The altitude record on earth for a helicopter is about 12 kilometers high, but because of that thin atmosphere (only one percent of that of the earth), it is as if you start on Mars at 0 kilometers high.
At a solitary height
The helicopter literally rides on the Rover, which will have the size of a car. That rover will drop the helicopter, drive a bit further and then pass on the signals sent from the earth to the helicopter. At NASA, people are mainly averse to the idea that a helicopter could be flown on Mars, but it could also be very useful to view places that a Rover cannot reach because of the altitude.
What exactly comes to measuring and recording equipment in the helicopter is not clear, but the device will, in any case, get solar cells to charge their own battery and a heater to survive the cold nights of Mars. Whether it will all work, we know only in three years, because by the time the rover and helicopter reach Mars it is 2021. Whether this will all work is of course the big question. NASA’s scientists can count themselves dull, but before the helicopter really tries to fly into the thin atmosphere of Mars, you never know for certain whether it will. Hopefully, it is with us and in 2021 we can enjoy an aerial spectacle at a great distance.