NASA Is Equipping The Next Mars Rover With A Helicopter, The First To Make Interplanetary Travel
NASA’s next rover mission is slated to launch in 2020 and the mission is expected to have the first helicopter to make interplanetary travel. NASA’s next Mars rover will be equipped with a small, autonomous helicopter to survey the landscape of the Red Planet, but several challenges make using a regular quadcopter impossible.
Development of the Mars Helicopter began in 2013 at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California. NASA expects to include the Mars Helicopter on United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida in July 2020. The Mars rover and helicopter should arrive on the Red Planet in February 2021.
“NASA has a proud history of firsts,” NASA’s administrator, Jim Bridenstine, said in a statement. “The idea of a helicopter flying the skies of another planet is thrilling. The Mars Helicopter holds much promise for our future science, discovery and exploration missions to Mars.”
The six-wheeled rover will conduct geological assessments, search for natural resources, habitable environments, and any signs of ancient Martian life. The new rover is equipped with 23 cameras, a microphone, and a drill to collect samples of rock and soil. The helicopter weighs just under four pounds and is the size of a softball. The drone will utilize solar cells to charge its lithium-ion batteries. There is also a heating mechanism to make sure it doesn’t freeze on frigid Martian nights.