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by ibgames

EARTHDATE: May 20, 2018

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by Hazed

NASA plans to send a helicopter to Mars in 2020 along with the next rover. This will be the first time a heavier-than-air aircraft has been tested on another planet.

The benefits are clear: a flying machine can travel a lot further than a ground-bound vehicle, and faster too. It can traverse terrain too challenging for a wheeled rover – and there’s no risk it will get stuck in the sand. But the challenges are immense, because the atmosphere of Mars is 100 times thinner than the Earth’s.

NASA’s design team has been working for more than four years on shrinking a working helicopter to “the size of a softball” and reducing its weight to just 4 lbs (1.8kg).

Its two blades will spin at something like 3,000 revolutions a minute, which is about ten times faster than a standard Earth-bound helicopter.

“The idea of a helicopter flying the skies of another planet is thrilling,” said Nasa Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “The Mars Helicopter holds much promise for our future science, discovery, and exploration missions to Mars.”

This is considered a high risk project and there is every likelihood that it will fail. But the Mars 2020 mission will not depend on it because a conventional wheeled lander is also being sent; the helicopter is just an add-on.

Nasa said, “If it does work, helicopters may have a real future as low-flying scouts and aerial vehicles to access locations not reachable by ground travel.”

Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-44090509

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