NASA Mars helicopter demonstration project has recently finished another important test series, after which it is expected to be integrated with Mars rover in 2020 and launch this summer. Getting a heavier aircraft into the Marian atmosphere is tough because the Mars atmosphere is thinner than that of earth.
At the start of this year, JPL conducted a test for the helicopter in a simulated Martian environment. Which has placed the helicopter in a temperature lower as minus 130 degrees Fahrenheit and flew it in a vacuum chamber that simulated Martian air. Too, it was attached to a motorized lanyard to aid stimulate the Martian gravity. They conduct the testing to make sure if the Mars helicopter could survive in the Martian air or not.
“Nobody’s built a Mars Helicopter before, so we are continuously entering new territory,” said MiMi Aung, project manager for the NASA Mars Helicopter at Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “Our flight model – the actual vehicle that will travel to Mars – has recently passed several important tests.”
The Mars helicopter is back at JPL, it has already installed with a new solar panel. Plus the vehicle rotor blades have been spun up to ensure that more than 1,500 individual pieces of carbon fiber, flight-grade aluminum, silicon, copper, foil, and aerogel continue to work as a cohesive unit. NASA said that they are not putting any science instrument on the helicopter beyond a camera.
Instead, they have placed a “technology demonstrator” to prove that it’s possible to remotely fly a Martian drone from Earth. The Mars 2020 mission is scheduled to launch in July 2020 and arrive on Mars on February 18th, 2021.
“We expect to complete our final tests and refinements and deliver the helicopter to the High Bay 1 clean room for integration with the rover sometime this summer,” said Aung, “but we will never really be done with testing the helicopter until we fly at Mars.”
Future Mars mission could enroll second-generation helicopters to add an aerial dimension to explore. They can also discover unvisited or new places which are difficult to reach like cliffs, caves, and deep craters. The helicopters would make a good scout for researchers even carry small payloads from one location to another.