NASA is considering sending a miniature helicopter to Mars, which will serve as an air reconnaissance aircraft for the 2020 mission.
The helicopter, which is intended primarily as a technology demonstrator, will be the first sub-technical device that will pass through the fine Martian atmosphere.
Flying on Mars is not an easy task. The atmospheric pressure of the planet is only 1% of the earth, so the helicopter needs a relatively large blade compared to the size of its body.
"The principle of the helicopter blades is based on the rotational speed and density of the atmosphere. Since the atmosphere on Mars is so low, you have to rotate the blades even faster or increase their size," says NASA project Mike Meecham, a mechanical engineer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory ( JPL) in Pasadena, California.
The prototype of the helicopter on Mars is being tested in JPL and is a cube, the size of a box weighing 2.2 kg. It had blades that span 3, 6 feet from tip to tip. In the event of a positive decision, the helicopter will be fixed aboard the rover 2020.
NASA will use a solar-powered helicopter that will be equipped with GoPro cameras for reconnaissance of the safe and efficient route of the rover. He must have enough power to make a short 2-, 3-minute flight for every 550 yards.
Such a helicopter will allow the rover to cover a distance three times larger than if it were controlled from Earth.
"Thanks to the helicopter, the speed of the intelligence of the rover will be much higher," said Jim Green, head of NASA's Department of Planetary Science.
The helicopter can also act as a full-time photographer of the rover, taking the space “Selfie” to a new level.