Helicopters are a common sight in the sky above the earth, but they soon come to the red planet. NASA has successfully tested its Mars-bound helicopter drone under Mars-like conditions. The ship was only a few inches in the air, but that was all the team needed. This proves that the basic requirement is sound, and the next flight could be on Mars.
NSA plans to launch the Mars helicopter together with the Mars 2020 rover next year. However, the helicopter is not an integral part of the mission. NASA calls it a technology demonstration, but it will be an impressive demonstration. The Mars helicopter is driven to Mars, which is connected to the undercarriage of the Mars 2020 Rovers. A few months after landing on the red planet, the helicopter will fly autonomous flights into the sky for 90 seconds.
Before this can happen, the team had to make sure that the helicopter could work with its thin atmosphere and low temperatures on Mars. The analog closest to Mars on Earth would be the atmosphere at a height of 100,000 feet. Fortunately, NASA has a huge vacuum chamber that sits comfortably on the surface.
To simulate Mars, the team removed the entire Earth's atmosphere from the chamber and then pumped carbon dioxide in until it met the Martian atmosphere. That's about 1 percent of the Earth's atmospheric pressure. Next, the team had to do something against gravity. Mars has only one third of Earth's gravity, which makes it easier to lift the probe. There is no way to change gravity on Earth but a "gravity discharge system" can fake it. This is the cable that you see from the helicopter. It pulls up with constant force and accounts for two thirds of the mass of the probe.
NASA conducted two test flights with a total flight time of about one minute. The drone reached a height of only five centimeters, but the team says that everything they need. This proves that the helicopter works in martian conditions. The next time it flies, 2021 could be on Mars.
The Mars 2020 rover is based on the highly successful Curiosity rover, which is still chugging on Mars after nearly seven years. The new rover carries out geological tests, determines the habitability of the environment and looks for signs of ancient life. The launch is currently in July 2020 in the books.