NASA to test autonomous helicopter on Mars

Attempting to make outer space history, US space agency will attempt first powered, controlled aircraft flight over another planet.

Tags: NASA Mars
Dan Verbin ,

Mars
Mars
ISTOCK

On Monday, NASA will attempt to make outer space history when it launches a miniature helicopter over the Martian surface, the first powered, controlled aircraft to fly over another planet.

The aim is for the 4-pound helicopter to fly up to an altitude of 10 feet where it will hover for 30 second, then rotate around in order to fly back down to the ground. The craft has four landing legs. It uses an autonomous piloting system to navigate.

The helicopter will be taking off and landing on the surface of a massive Martian basin known as Jezero Crater.

The helicopter was delivered to Mars on the underside of NASA’s Mars rover Perseverance. The rover, which includes an astrobiology lab, landed on Mars on February 18. The trip from Earth to Mars takes approximately seven months.

Cameras for capturing the historic flight have been attached to the helicopter and on the rover. The rover will be filming on the ground from 250 feet away from the helicopter's landing field.

If the test flight, and future lengthier test flights, are successful, the technology could be the gateway to aerial mapping of Mars and other nearby planets, such as Venus.

With Martian gravity much lower than Earth and with a much less dense atmosphere, Mars poses a challenge for rotor-based aerial flight. NASA engineers solved the issue by attached extra large 4-foot long rotor blades to the helicopter. The blades also spin faster than would be needed on Earth.



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