NASA flying helicopter to Mars using remote control

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NASA will include a small, autonomous helicopter in the agency's upcoming Mars 2020 rover mission, officials announced today (May 11).

"The idea of a helicopter flying in the sky of another planet is exciting".

Thomas Zurbuchen, Associate Administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, said the mission provided "a unique opportunity to advance Mars exploration for the future".

The development of the Mar's helicopter began in the year 2013. Its counter-rotating blades will revolve at 3,000 RPM, about ten times the speed of a helicopter flying over Earth, made necessary by the thin, Martian atmosphere. Jim Bridenstine is an administrator at the National Aeronautical and Space Administration. Flights will be programmed because the distance to Mars precludes real-time commands from Earth. The helicopter contains a heating mechanism to keep it warm during frigid nights and solar cells to charge its lithium-ion batteries. In tests he successfully rose to a height in excess of 12 km, this means that on Mars the Mars Helicopter can fly at an altitude of over 30 km. "The atmosphere of Mars is only 1 percent that of Earth, so when our helicopter is on the Martian surface, it's already at the Earth equivalent of 100,000 feet up". This initiative is a part of 2020 United States space agency mission and this would be the first time that such an aircraft would be placed on Martian surface.

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The team say it's an ambitious project that carries a high risk of failure - but if it comes off it could offer new frontiers for space exploration.

Pilots on Earth will control the next-generation aircraft for small test flights at first, and then gradually expand the range and duration as they determine its potential to scout and study previously inaccessible locations. "Instead, we have an autonomous capability that will be able to receive and interpret commands from the ground, and then fly the mission on its own", she said.

The exploratory mission is scheduled to launch in July 2020.

According to the source, the Mars Helicopter will be bundled with the USA space agency's Mars rover when it launches in 2020.