According to media reports, NASA is considering developing a helicopter Mars probe to be used on a Mars rover as a platform for aerial reconnaissance. Flying on Mars is a challenge because the planet’s atmospheric pressure is only one percent of Earth’s, so helicopters need larger blades. Mike Meacham, a mechanical engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, believes that once flying in a low-density atmosphere, we need to spin faster and have larger blades. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory is testing a Mars helicopter that’s about the size of a tissue box, with a wingtip width of only 3.6 feet and a weight of 2.2 pounds, like a cube.
If the project is approved, the helicopter will be mounted on the rover and travel to Mars together. NASA will use solar power to power the helicopter and install GoPro cameras for aerial reconnaissance, flying 550 yards per sortie if there is enough power. Bob Balaram, chief engineer of robotic systems at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, believes that taking off on Mars is a difficult task. We must ensure the safety of the flight and land on Mars through a landing system that prevents bouncing.
Jim Green, head of NASA’s Planetary Science Division, believes that if we have helicopters, we will have many more exploration routes to choose from and can observe a wider range of Mars scenes.