The First Aircraft to Fly on Another Planet Will be a Mars Helicopter

Members of the NASA Mars Helicopter team inspect the flight model (the actual vehicle going to the Red Planet), inside the Space Simulator, a 25-foot-wide (7.62-meter-wide) vacuum chamber at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, on Feb. 1, 2019. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

When NASA’s Mars 2020 spacecraft launches it will include a helicopter designed to fly only on Mars and will be the first time ever an aircraft will fly on another planetary body.

In today’s SpaceQ podcast were featuring a Future in Space Operation teleconference with Håvard Grip from the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Håvard spoke about the NASA Mars 2020 mission which will includes both a rover and helicopter.

This artist's concept shows the sky-crane maneuver during the descent of NASA's Curiosity rover to the Martian surface. The Mars mission launching in 2020 would leverage the design of this landing system and other aspects of the Mars Science Laboratory architecture
This artist’s concept shows the sky-crane maneuver during the descent of NASA’s Curiosity rover to the Martian surface. The Mars mission launching in 2020 would leverage the design of this landing system and other aspects of the Mars Science Laboratory architecture. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

The Mars 2020 rover is similar to the Curiosity rover whose mission is ongoing, but will have some different instrumentation. The Mars helicopter that will accompany the rover is quite small weighing only 1.8 kilograms and is about 60 cm in width, though from blade tip to tip it is 1.2 meters.

The helicopter is battery powered and is recharged by a solar array. Flights will be short, lasting no more than 90 seconds flying to a height of about 5 meters. The helicopter has a camera. It will fly ahead of the rover to survey the local terrain and transmit the data it collects once it returns and lands at a safe location nearby the rover. It will not takeoff and land on the rover itself after the rover has landed on Mars.

Listen in.

Presentation material:

Listen to and Subscribe to the Podcast

You can subscribe to the podcast using your favourite podcast app (iOS and Android). For apps like Pocket Cast or OverCast you can search using the podcast title SpaceQ or use the RSS feed URL listed below.

The RSS feed URL is: http://feeds.soundcloud.com/users/soundcloud:users:286233381/sounds.rss

The podcast is also available on Apple iTunes, Google Play Music, Spotify and SoundCloud.

About Marc Boucher

Marc Boucher
Boucher is an entrepreneur, writer, editor & publisher. He is the founder of SpaceQ Media Inc. and CEO and co-founder of SpaceRef Interactice Inc. Boucher has 20 years working in various roles in the space industry and a total of 27 years as a technology entrepreneur including creating Maple Square, Canada's first internet directory and search engine.