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Mars Helicopter to Fly on NASA’s Next Red Planet Rover Mission

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The Mars Helicopter, a small, autonomous rotorcraft, will travel with the agency’s Mars 2020 rover mission, currently scheduled to launch in July 2020, to demonstrate the viability and potential of heavier-than-air vehicles on the Red Planet.

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

U.S. Rep. John Culberson of Texas echoed Bridenstine’s appreciation of the impact of American firsts on the future of exploration and discovery.

“It’s fitting that the United States of America is the first nation in history to fly the first heavier-than-air craft on another world,” Culberson said. “This exciting and visionary achievement will inspire young people all over the United States to become scientists and engineers, paving the way for even greater discoveries in the future.”

Started in August 2013 as a technology development project at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), the Mars Helicopter had to prove that big things could come in small packages. The result of the team’s four years of design, testing and redesign weighs in at little under four pounds (1.8 kilograms). Its fuselage is about the size of a softball, and its twin, counter-rotating blades will bite into the thin Martian atmosphere at almost 3,000 rpm – about 10 times the rate of a helicopter on Earth.

“Exploring the Red Planet with NASA’s Mars Helicopter exemplifies a successful marriage of science and technology innovation and is a unique opportunity to advance Mars exploration for the future,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, Associate Administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate at the agency headquarters in Washington. “After the Wright Brothers proved 117 years ago that powered, sustained, and controlled flight was possible here on Earth, another group of American pioneers may prove the same can be done on another world.”



https://www.nasa.gov/press-release/mars-helicopter-to-fly-on-nasa-s-next-red-planet-rover-mission

Will a helicopter work on Mars?
With regards to helicopter flight, there are two big differences between Earth and Mars. First, the density of the atmosphere on Mars is significantly lower than on Earth (only about 1 percent of our atmospheric density). Second, the gravitational field is also lower on Mars (just 38 percent of the gravity on the surface of the Earth). The lower atmospheric density makes it more difficult to fly a helicopter, but the lower gravity makes it easier.
The real question—how do helicopters fly? In a very basic model of helicopter thrust, the rotors take air above the helicopter and throw this air down. Since the "thrown" air has an increase in momentum, this requires a force—which is the lift force. Also, we can imagine this mass of air is in the shape of a cylinder with the radius of this air-cylinder the same as the area of the helicopter rotors.


https://www.wired.com/story/the-physics-of-nasas-new-mars-helicopter/
 
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Has this unit been physically proven to fly already?
I personally think this will be a spectacular failure if proof of concept tests haven't been undertaken here prior to the missions.
What will prevent the body of the unit spinning countering the spin of the blades?
 
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Has this unit been physically proven to fly already?
I personally think this will be a spectacular failure if proof of concept tests haven't been undertaken here prior to the missions.
What will prevent the body of the unit spinning countering the spin of the blades?
Look at the pic - It has two sets of rotors, one set rotates opposite of the other negating the torquing effect you'd normally see and need a tail rotor to counteract. The post even says it has twin, counter-rotating blades so that's explanatory enough I guess.

As for whether it can fly in such a thin atmosphere, that's yet to be seen and they'd better get the math right before it's sent off to Mars.
 
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Look at the pic - It has two sets of rotors, one set rotates opposite of the other negating the torquing effect you'd normally see and need a tail rotor to counteract. The post even says it has twin, counter-rotating blades so that's explanatory enough I guess.

As for whether it can fly in such a thin atmosphere, that's yet to be seen and they'd better get the math right before it's sent off to Mars.
I believe they've been testing it in a chamber with mars equivalent atmospheric pressures already, so it can manage to fly in 1g and mars atmosphere so it should be fine on Mars so long as there isn't major wind issues
 
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I certainly hope so.
I don't think they have an off-world branch with a service tech that can come out to do the job. Speaking of wind I know Mars can have some gnarly weather/storms but I'd have to guess that's also been considered - Would have to be in fact.

This drone would surely allow for more and better mapping of the planet's surface features plus reveal any potential problematic-terrain closeby before the rover itself gets into it.
 
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