NASA Officials Deciding Whether Flying Drone Will Launch With Mars 2020 Rover
By Stephen Clark, SpaceFlightNow // March 16, 2018
helicopter has completed 86 minutes of flying time in a test chamber
(SpaceFlight Now) – Testing of a lightweight robotic helicopter designed to fly in the alien atmosphere of Mars has produced encouraging results in recent months, and NASA officials expect to decide soon whether the aerial drone will accompany the agency’s next rover to the red planet set for liftoff in 2020.
Engineers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory have worked on the helicopter design for several years, modifying principles used in drones that fly in Earth’s atmosphere for the more challenging conditions at Mars.
The atmospheric pressure on Mars is less than 1 percent that of Earth, and the Martian gravity field is about three-eighths as strong as it is on Earth.
Jim Watzin, director of NASA’s robotic Mars exploration program at the agency’s headquarters, said last month that an engineering model of the helicopter has completed 86 minutes of flying time in a test chamber configured to simulate the Martian atmosphere.
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