Saturday, May 12, 2018


It's a bird, it's a plane, no it's a Marscopter!

Those who watch it won't be the Little Green Men. It will just be Houston watching the Mars Rover.
NASA plans to load a little helicopter for exploring the Mars terrain on its next Mars Rover mission scheduled to take off in 2020.  Making the Marscopter work is a serious technological challenge (not that the rest of the mission isn't!). Although the Marscopter is tiny (just 1.8 kg, about half a kg more than standard laptops), the real difficulty lies in making it operate in the low atmospheric density of Mars. The atmosphere of Mars is only one percent that of the earth, so that a craft at the Martian surface encounters an atmospheric density which it would encounter at 100,000 feet  off the surface of the earth. The helicopter needs to be as light as is feasible, as well as strong as is feasible. It took the design team four years to come up with a viable machine that is currently under test in NASA's laboratories.

Here is  today's video from NASA.

And here is  one  for the nerdy engineering types.

The 'copter can survey the Martian terrain far more rapidly than the rovers which can explore about a 100 meters a day. NASA plans to use the 'copter for about five flights, over a period of about ninety days. The chopper is expected to cover a few hundred meters in  ninety seconds. We thought Curiosity was a hard act to top, but this one bids fair to outdo it. We wonder what they will call this one. Cat? That would be a killer!

This blog post by Neelima Gupte and Sumathi Rao.

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