For the very first time NASA wants to fly a helicopter on Mars
More than a century after the first powered flight on Earth, NASA intends to prove it’s possible to replicate the feat on another world. It might be called a helicopter, but in appearance it’s closer to mini-drones we’ve grown accustomed to seeing in recent years.
After a seven-month journey, NASA’s Perseverance rover prepares to touch down on Mars on Thursday after first negotiating a risky landing procedure that will mark the start of its multi-year search for signs of ancient microbial life.
Built at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, it weighs a ton, has a robotic arm that’s seven feet (two meters) long, has 19 cameras, and two microphones to record the Martian soundscape. It’s also equipped with solar cells to recharge its batteries, much of the energy being used for staying warm on cold Martian nights, where temperatures fall to minus 130 degrees Fahrenheit.
China last week placed its Tainwen-1 spacecraft in orbit around Mars carrying both a lander and a rover, which it is hoped to land in May.