WASHINGTON — NASA said on Friday it plans to launch the first-ever helicopter to Mars in 2020, a miniature, unmanned drone-like chopper that could boost our understanding of the Red Planet.
The US space agency said it will send a small helicopter to Mars as part of the agency’s 2020 mission to place a next-generation rover on the Martian surface, marking the first time such an aircraft will be used on another world.
Known as ‘The Mars Helicopter,’ the device weighs less than four pounds (1.8 kilograms), and its main body section, or fuselage, is about the size of a softball.
“NASA has a proud history of firsts,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine in a statement. “The idea of a helicopter flying the skies of another planet is thrilling.”
It will be attached to the belly pan of the Mars 2020 rover, a wheeled robot that aims to determine the habitability of the Martian environment, search for signs of ancient life, and assess natural resources and hazards for future human explorers.
Mars 2020 is planned for launch in July 2020 with an arrival on the surface of Mars expected in February 2021.
NASA’s Parker spacecraft rockets toward sun for closest look
CAPE CANAVERAL — NASA has launched a spacecraft to the sun which will fly closer to our star than anything ever sent before. The Parker Solar Probe rocketed away from Cape Canaveral, Florida, early Sunday.
The spacecraft is on an unprecedented quest that will take it straight through the wispy edges of the corona, or outer solar atmosphere, just 3.8 million (6 million kilometers) from the sun’s surface that was visible during last August’s total solar eclipse.
It will eventually stay comfortably cool despite the extreme heat and radiation allowing scientists to vicariously explore the sun in a way never before possible.
Saturday morning’s launch attempt was foiled by last-minute technical trouble and postponed by a day.
But what better day to launch to the sun than Sunday, as NASA noted.
“Fly baby girl, fly!!” project scientist Nicola Fox of Johns Hopkins University tweeted just before lift-off. She urged it to “go touch the sun!”
— NASA (@NASA) August 12, 2018
“All I can say is, ‘Wow, here we go.’ We’re in for some learning over the next several years,” said Eugene Parker, the 91-year-old astrophysicist for whom the spacecraft is named.
It was the first time NASA named a spacecraft after someone still alive, and Parker wasn’t about to let it take off without him.
Thousands of spectators jammed the launch site in the middle of the night as well as surrounding towns, including Parker and his family.Follow @gorkhapost