Mars helicopter ready to take off for Red Planet: NASA
New York : After completing a set of tests, the Mars helicopter has been given a green signal to take off for the Red Planet, the US space agency said.
"The next time we fly, we fly on Mars," MiMi Aung, Project Manager for Mars Helicopter at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, said in a statement.
The Mars Helicopter will launch as a technology demonstrator with the Mars 2020 rover on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket in July 2020 from the Space Launch Complex 41 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.
It is expected to reach Mars in February 2021.
Made up with carbon fibre, flight-grade aluminium, silicon, copper, foil and foam, the helicopter contains a total of 1500 parts and still weighs only 1.8 kilogram.
Currently, it is going through thousands of tests to ensure safety on the red planet. Mars have a thinner atmosphere as compared to the Earth; and it also drops to icy temperatures that can destroy sensitive electronics.
"Gearing up for that first flight on Mars, we have logged over 75 minutes of flying time with an engineering model, which was a close approximation of our helicopter," Aung said.
In the Space Simulator, the team also created artificial gravity that matched what the helicopter would experience on Mars by creating a "gravity offload system".