NASA has announced that testing of the agency’s Mars Helicopter has been concluded. The helicopter is scheduled to hitch a ride with the agency’s Perseverance rover later this year.
Earlier this month, NASA conducted a functional 50 RPM test spin of the agency’s Mars Helicopter. The test marked the final time the helicopter’s rotor blades will be operated before it is launched aboard an Atlas V from Cape Canaveral in mid-July.
The Mars Helicopter will be housed within NASA’s Perseverance rover on its journey to the Red Planet. Currently, the rover is scheduled to touch down on the surface of Mars on February 18, 2021.
Once on the surface, the helicopter will remain “encapsulated” until mission managers are happy with conditions. Short test flights will then be performed to validate the helicopter’s system. These flights will mark the first time an aircraft has taken flight on another planet.
“The ability to see clearly what lies beyond the next hill is crucial for future explorers,” said Associate Administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate Thomas Zurbuchen. “We already have great views of Mars from the surface as well as from orbit. With the added dimension of a bird’s-eye view from a ‘marscopter,’ we can only imagine what future missions will achieve.”
The Mars Helicopter weighs approximately 1.8 kilograms, has a rotor diameter of 1.2 meters, and stands 0.8 meters off the ground. It is powered by lithium-ion batteries which are replenished using a small solar array fitted above the helicopter’s rotors.
Once the helicopter is deployed, it will undergo a 30-day test flight series. These flights will be incremental with the longest expected to last 90 seconds.