The U.S. space agency presented a few moths ago the Mars Helicopter and it has now passed the main tests.
It is a vehicle quite different from what we usually see (rovers, landers, etc.), more like a drone. Something that implies greater difficulty when preparing it for the environment of the Red Planet and that supposes tests of flight in addition to those of resistance to extreme temperatures and other aspects relative to the Martian atmosphere.
It is a vehicle added to the Mars 2020 mission, which although it was unexpected in its announcement in reality last year already had more than four years of tests. There were doubts whether to add it to the project or not, given the added difficulty involved in the fact that it is a drone and does not anchor to the surface or circulate on it as a rover, but with the latest tests made NASA shows that everything is still standing.
The tests started at the end of January. They have already gone on to test a definitive model of the small drone of 1.8 kilograms, and not the provisional model that had been used until now for flights of about 75 minutes.
They have been carried out in the space simulator of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, in a vacuum chamber 7.62 metres wide in which nitrogen, oxygen and other gases were first extracted from the air to insert carbon dioxide, so that the similarity with the extreme Martian atmosphere is the maximum in terms of composition and density.
But in addition to the composition of this is gravity: on Mars we talk about about about a third of the gravity we have on Earth. To do that, they tied the helicopter to a cable, so that it would provide a pull equivalent to that of gravity on Mars.
The tests have been satisfactory under these conditions and the next flight will be on Mars. The launch of Mars 2020 is scheduled for July of the same year from Cape Canaveral (Florida), expecting it to reach Mars in February 2021.