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NASA proves its space helicopter can fly on Mars



Since the Martian atmosphere has about one percent of the Earth's density, researchers would have conducted their flight tests at an altitude of 100,000 feet if they did not rely on the simulator. The 25-foot-wide vacuum cylinder was the much better choice, especially since the agency has been using it to test machines meant for the red planet anyway. In fact, it's where the Curiosity team tested the rover here on Earth.

To be able to replicate the Martian atmosphere, the team injected carbon dioxide into the chamber after sucking out all nitrogen, oxygen and other gases. They also had to use a gravity offload system in the form of a motorized lanyard that was tugged at the helicopter as it hovered above ground, since Mars is only two-thirds of our planet's gravity.

While the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) only logged a total of one minute of flight time at an altitude of 2 inches above ground, the scientists were able to get the data they need to be able to say that it will work on Mars. "The next time we fly, we fly on Mars," project manager MiMi Aung said. "Watching our helicopter go through its paces in the chamber, I could not help but think about the historical vehicles that have been in there in the past." The Chamber hosted missions from the Ranger Moon probes to the Voyagers to Cassini, and every Mars "

Both the Mars 2020 rover and the helicopter are expected to arrive on the red planet in February 2021. The helicopter will serve as a demo for future space UAVs, while the rover will study the planet's geology, assess the possibility of life in the past, and collect samples by drilling into its surface.


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