NASA’s Mars Helicopter flight demonstrator soars into final testing

Shane McGlaun - Jun 7, 2019, 7:16 am CDT
NASA’s Mars Helicopter flight demonstrator soars into final testing

Mars is a vastly different environment from the Earth, and according to the laws of physics, it would be nearly impossible to fly on Mars. NASA says that flying on Mars with a vehicle that is heavier than air is very hard to do. The space agency wants to send a helicopter to Mars with the Mars 2020 mission that will be used as a technology demonstrator.

The NASA Mars Helicopter team has now announced that the flight demonstrator project has passed several vital tests with “flying colors.” The dual bladed helicopter will be the first vehicle in history to attempt to establish the viability of a heavier-than-air vehicle flying on another planet. 2019 has been a significant year for the scientists on the Mars Helicopter Program.

In January of 2019, the Mars Helicopter was moved to Lockheed Martin Space in Denver for compatibility testing with the Mars Helicopter Delivery System that will hold the aircraft against the belly of the Mars 2020 rover during launch and travel to Mars, and then deploy the helicopter on the surface of Mars after landing.

The Mars Helicopter has no science instruments aboard; its sole mission is to prove if powered flight can happen on Mars. The challenge for powered flight is the very thin Martian atmosphere that has only 1% of the density of Earth’s atmosphere. The team also wants to prove, assuming flight is possible, that the aircraft can be controlled from Earth.

While Mars Helicopter has no science instruments, it does have a high-resolution color camera that can provide images to demonstrate the potential for documenting the Red Planet. If the test proves successful, future missions could add aircraft to their exploration options.

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