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HomeAircraftHelicopterHelicopter Main Discussion › Mars Helicopter to Fly on NASA's Next Red Planet Rover Mission
05-12-2018 03:03 PM  5 months agoPost 1
Mark Ryder

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https://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?feature=7121
NASA is sending a helicopter to Mars.

The Mars Helicopter, a small, autonomous rotorcraft, will travel with the agency's Mars 2020 rover mission, currently scheduled to launch in July 2020, to demonstrate the viability and potential of heavier-than-air vehicles on the Red Planet.

"NASA has a proud history of firsts," said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. "The idea of a helicopter flying the skies of another planet is thrilling. The Mars Helicopter holds much promise for our future science, discovery, and exploration missions to Mars."

Watch at YouTube

Mark Ryder

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05-12-2018 04:53 PM  5 months agoPost 2
wrongler

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Amazing, China will have a copy for sale soon!

Bill Whittaker

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05-12-2018 04:54 PM  5 months agoPost 3
InvertedDude

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WOW
That is bad ass!

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05-12-2018 05:04 PM  5 months agoPost 4
GyroFreak

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The result of the team's four years of design, testing and redesign weighs in at little under four pounds (1.8 kilograms). Its fuselage is about the size of a softball, and its twin, counter-rotating blades will bite into the thin Martian atmosphere at almost 3,000 rpm -
Like to know more of the technical details. How long and wide are the blades and what are they made of. How are the controls configured (linkages for flight control, and so forth).

I think about the hereafter. I go somewhere to get something, then wonder what I'm here after ?

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05-12-2018 11:45 PM  5 months agoPost 5
RM3

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thats really cool... guess the high rotor rpm is needed due to the fact that Mars's atmosphere is about 100 times thinner than Earth's so Im really amazed they could get it in the air.... not alot of drag to deal with, but not much lift either despite having only about 38% of the earth gravity.

wonder why they cant put solar cells on the blades and make use of that surface area...

I also see they are using old school heli training gear with the ping pong balls and sticks... amateurs.

showing a preference will only get you into trouble, 90% of everything is crap...

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05-13-2018 12:06 AM  5 months agoPost 6
Heli_Splatter

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I don't see it working well... They have such a difficult time flying Everest rescue missions due to the atmoshere. The level of autonomy will have to be 100% due to the communications lag from Earth to Mars. I think that they have to do this to advance the science. The current rovers are just too slow to explore. Better load up half a dozen or so. Expect crashes.

Atmosphere and Temperature:

Atmospheric pressure and temperatures are another way in which Earth and Mars are quite different. Earth has a dense atmosphere composed of five main layers – the Troposphere, the Stratosphere, the Mesosphere, the Thermosphere, and the Exosphere. Mars’ is very thin by comparison, with pressure ranging from 0.4 – 0.87 kPa – which is equivalent to about 1% of Earth’s at sea level.

Earth’s atmosphere is also primarily composed of nitrogen (78%) and oxygen (21%) with trace concentrations of water vapor, carbon dioxide, and other gaseous molecules. Mars’ is composed of 96% carbon dioxide, 1.93% argon and 1.89% nitrogen along with traces of oxygen and water. Recent surveys have also noted trace amounts of methane, with an estimated concentration of about 30 parts per billion (ppb).

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05-13-2018 03:01 AM  5 months agoPost 7
RM3

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Heli_Splatter
The current rovers are just too slow to explore.
Ive often wondered why that was so... I mean they are REALLY slow... was this a function of power savings or efficiency? or was it to try to maintain some sort of control?

but at least with the rovers, a mechanical failure often had some sort of work around (remember when one had a wheel lock up and they basically drug it along and kept on with the mission?)

but yeah I agree, a flying rotor craft type explorer will have near zero margin for error and any single failure will render it junk... considering what it costs to send up a single pound of payload... I sure as hell hope they make the heli as robust as possible...

I would focus on either faster rovers and disposable winged gliders... the idea being less moving parts with greater range... but designed for one way missions on the surface... or hell make them recoverable by the rover for recharge and reuse...

showing a preference will only get you into trouble, 90% of everything is crap...

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05-13-2018 03:21 AM  5 months agoPost 8
GyroFreak

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The altitude record for a helicopter flying here on Earth is about 40,000 feet. The atmosphere of Mars is only one percent that of Earth, so when our helicopter is on the Martian surface, it's already at the Earth equivalent of 100,000 feet up

I think about the hereafter. I go somewhere to get something, then wonder what I'm here after ?

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05-13-2018 04:19 AM  5 months agoPost 9
grimthenoble

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It will never fly on mars, I was up on mars the other day and had my Trex 700 DFC at 14000 head rpms and still couldn't hover it.

Never go Full Retard!

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05-13-2018 04:31 AM  5 months agoPost 10
RM3

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I’m sure they are testing it the vacuum chamber... as seen in that vid... but 3000 rpms on what looks like ultra wide cord 500 class blades uptimzed for lift. I think they can pull it off. But I see a lot of hurdles they need to overcome.

showing a preference will only get you into trouble, 90% of everything is crap...

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05-13-2018 06:28 AM  5 months agoPost 11
eeeeky

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I want all the quadcopter people to see this... Put that in your pipe and suck it.

Lets Fly!

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05-13-2018 05:04 PM  5 months agoPost 12
MobileRaptor

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I don't see making it fly as the big issue. Navigation will be the biggest problem. Signal time delay means manual control is impossible so it will have to be autonomous. Unless they have launched and placed a bunch of GPS satellites around the planet it going to have to stay line of sight with rover for telemetry and use terrain following/mapping radar for guidance.

The delivery vehicle that transports it to the planet could be a GPS source but for it to have any accuracy it would have to split into at least three components to have minimal accuracy

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05-15-2018 04:02 PM  5 months agoPost 13
old nitroman

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Very cool I wish them lots of luck

E5s and E7se,and a 766, Roban bell 222 800 superscale,450 bell 4 bladed head,gobby 380and 420 ,180cfx

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05-15-2018 04:11 PM  5 months agoPost 14
RM3

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MobileRaptor
I don't see making it fly as the big issue. Navigation will be the biggest problem. Signal time delay means manual control is impossible so it will have to be autonomous. Unless they have launched and placed a bunch of GPS satellites around the planet it going to have to stay line of sight with rover for telemetry and use terrain following/mapping radar for guidance.

The delivery vehicle that transports it to the planet could be a GPS source but for it to have any accuracy it would have to split into at least three components to have minimal accuracy
Something tells me that they have that figured out already... they did control the rovers by giving them coordinates on where to go based on satellite imagery... so like you say the next step is to automate the vehicle, which they have already done before, but this time it will be flying. And that there is gonna be the trick to pulling it off, very little margin for error and the aircraft will need to be both autonomous but also smart enough to avoid crashing between way points.

showing a preference will only get you into trouble, 90% of everything is crap...

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05-15-2018 04:52 PM  5 months agoPost 15
wjvail

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I find myself asking why? Why try and fly above the Martian surface?

Given the challenges I assume they are only going to get a few tens of feet above the surface and the range probably wouldn't be much better. I can't believe we are talking about flight to 2,000' AGL and ranges measured in miles (like you would expect from an Earth drone).

The video in post #1 shows the craft tethered. I don't see a battery on the test vehicle. It's hard to know if the umbilical is just for data or is powering the device. Flight on Mars would be orders of magnitude easier if the craft didn't have to lift its own power supply - but it would mean an even more restricted flight envelope.

So now we are 20, 30, 40 feet above the Martial soil - now what? You've lost physical contact with what it is you are trying to study. Mineralogy studies, moisture studies, temperature studies, etc are all lost. It is unlikely your going to get high enough to do atmospheric studies.

What your are left with is "a better view". You are left with a view of Mars from the equivalent of the top of a ladder. You might get a view equivalent to the the view you would get from the 2nd or 3rd story of a building.

The craft we have landed on Mars up until now have admittedly only given us a worms-eye view. I can see the challenges of exploring an entire planet with the only view being 18" above the surface. But wouldn't mapping Mars be better done from orbit? If a view from above is the goal, wouldn't we be better served doing that from orbit? Don't we already do that? Don't we already have extremely good maps of Mars? Given Mar's very thin atmosphere and very low mass, orbital altitudes are already 1/2 that of earth's and with little "air", imaging from orbit is very much easier on Mars than it is on Earth.

Again - I find myself asking why? What is gained for the effort? From an energy perspective flight is always costly and certainly so on a planet nearly devoid of atmosphere. There better be a very good reason to leave the surface.

"Well, Nothing bad can happen now."

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05-15-2018 04:58 PM  5 months agoPost 16
GyroFreak

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wjvail
I find myself asking why?
In my opinion, it is simply the first small step in developing a far ranging flyer for Mars.
After all, the Wright brothers took a small step to begin with.
EDIT: But I agree with you if it is tethered.

I think about the hereafter. I go somewhere to get something, then wonder what I'm here after ?

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05-15-2018 06:36 PM  5 months agoPost 17
RM3

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I think the reason as to why has more to do with what we are not being told is likely there. Mars once had water... lots of it. Therefore it likely had life, life that may have started there first before the Earth or at about the same time. Satellites are great, but even with the best imaging which is now well under the meter range, real details, color, texture and depth perception are still lacking. So to make the most of a mission, they need to find what they are looking for (evidence of life) in a more efficient way that allows them to better gauge what should be investigated vs what is a waste of time. There are many places the rover simply cant go to due to how steep the terrain is, such as craters, cliffs, mountain sides etc.

showing a preference will only get you into trouble, 90% of everything is crap...

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05-15-2018 06:55 PM  5 months agoPost 18
ssmith512

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Making it fly in the Martian atmosphere is the easy part, lift is lift regardless of the medium. You design for the required lift in the medium in which you are traveling. Non-GPS enabled autonomous navigation is already in place. Heck we've already shot a probe at a comet and hit it with a relative closing speed of 23,000mph over a decade ago. Pretty decent radar navigation and reaction time associated with that mission. So I think lazily flying around the Martian atmosphere will be a "walk in the park". Not alot of air traffic nor unexpected high rise (buildings/trees/towers/etc.) obstacles to cope with on Mars.

Steve

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05-15-2018 09:43 PM  5 months agoPost 19
wjvail

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ssmith512
Making it fly in the Martian atmosphere is the easy part, lift is lift regardless of the medium.
I wonder if it is that simple. Propeller driven craft are greatly dependent on the density of the medium they operate in. In our own atmosphere propellers are most efficient at the surface and fixed wing propeller driven aircraft rarely go above 40,000'. 99% of those are turbine aircraft where decreasing propeller efficiency in a climb is offset by increasing engine efficiency.

Admittedly there are exceptions. In fact the altitude record for sustained horizontal flight was set by a propeller driven solar/electric aircraft at over 96,000'. Noteworthy for this discussion is that it was so fragile that it broke-up in flight and fell into the Pacific ocean. Controlled heavier than air flight on Mars will have to be comparatively robust.

The above numbers pertain to fixed wing aircraft. The highest altitude attained by a helicopter is 40,820'.

You say "lift is lift regardless of the medium" but that assumes there is a medium. I've noticed a lack of propellers on space craft.

"Well, Nothing bad can happen now."

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05-15-2018 10:04 PM  5 months agoPost 20
wjvail

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RM3
So to make the most of a mission, they need to find what they are looking for (evidence of life) in a more efficient way that allows them to better gauge what should be investigated vs what is a waste of time.
Fair enough. I see that but have to ask, why not a better, faster terrestrial rover? Couldn't the power and energy required to get airborne be used to operate the equivalent of fleet of Martian F1 cars? Again, rotary flight is expensive in many ways.
RM3
There are many places the rover simply cant go to due to how steep the terrain is, such as craters, cliffs, mountain sides etc.
This is probably the best reason for a Martian drone. Even here on Earth very often the most archaeologically interesting places are geologically the most active. Here on Earth archaeologist gravitate to river banks, fissures, eroded hill sides, etc. Places where geology has naturally exposed layers is the first places where you'd like to look and also the least accessible by terrestrial craft.

"Well, Nothing bad can happen now."

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