The project of the experimental Martian helicopter,which will go to the Red Planet in the company with the new Mars Rover of the NASA aerospace agency in 2020, approached the final test phase. As the US space agency points out on its official website, this mission will be the first time in history when a rotorcraft flying in the atmosphere of Mars (and other planets in general).
"No one has ever created a helicopter for Mars,therefore, for us, as for everyone else, this is a completely new and unique experience. Our flight model — an apparatus that will fly to Mars — has recently passed several very important tests, ”says Mimi Ong, project manager of the Mars helicopter at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) at NASA in Pasadena, California.
How will NASA's Martian helicopter fly?
The laws of physics say that in the conditions of Marsit is impossible to fly. The task of raising an aircraft heavier than that of the Earth on the Red Planet is heavier than this very air seems impossible. However, NASA nevertheless decided to test this idea, and therefore, within the framework of the Mars 2020 mission, a demonstrator will be delivered to the Red Planet, who will have to make the first controlled flight in a Martian atmosphere. About how the machine can fly in the conditions of Mars, we told in one of our previous articles.
In January of this year, JPL experts have already conductedtests of the helicopter in the "artificially created Martian environment". Within their framework, the rotary-wing machine was exposed to low temperatures (-129 degrees Celsius) and flew inside the chamber in which the conditions of the Martian atmosphere were simulated. Then a compact aircraft weighing only 1.8 kilograms was transported to the enterprise of Lockheed Martin Space, where they checked its compatibility with the system that will hold it on the new Mars-2020 rover with which it will fly to the Red Planet. The task of the test was to ensure the survival of the helicopter in the conditions of Mars, which it will experience after the launch of the rocket.
Since the project is experimental,Martian helicopter will not carry any scientific equipment. Its main task will be to test the possibility of flying inside the Martian atmosphere (the density is only one percent of the Earth's), which also proves the possibility of super-long-range control of an unmanned vehicle of this type from the Earth. However, the machine will be equipped with a camera capable of high-resolution color photography, which in the future may increase the potential of using such devices to study the Red Planet.
Why do we need helicopters on Mars?
If tests of this helicopter on Mars really take place and prove to be successful, similar devices of a new generation can already be used for research purposes.
For example, thanks to similar drone NASA experts will have the opportunity to explore the rocks of Mars at close range, to take pictures in remote places, including caves.
In May, the helicopter was returned to JPL, whereIt was carried out revision. In addition, he passed a series of key tests. In particular, a new solar panel was installed on the Martian helicopter and the rotors were tested to ensure that all 1500 machine parts made of carbon fiber, aircraft aluminum, silicon, copper, foil and airgel continue to work as a unit.
“We look forward to the completion of all trials andpreparations, and also installation of the helicopter on a mars rover this summer. But, of course, the most important tests — on Mars — are just waiting for a car, ”says Ong.
The mission "Mars 2020" will begin in July 2020. The launch of the vehicles will be carried out using the Atlas-5 launch vehicle owned by the United Launch Alliance. Landing on Mars should be held February 18, 2021. The main purpose of the mission is to research the crater Jezero, where NASA hopes to find signs of ancient life.
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