NASA is sending a helicopter to Mars


Originally published at:



Didn’t we already do this when we sent Val Kilmer to Mars almost two decades ago?




Somewhere there’s a Martian and a shotgun with that drone’s number on it.


Doesn’t Mars have a thinner atmosphere? How will that effect a helicopter? I assume its height is limited and the rotors need to be bigger?


The rotors will be going at 3,000 RPM, and the flight duration max seems to be around 90 seconds.


Yeah I was wondering that too. I figured it was going to have to have some really long rotors but maybe wide rotors do the same thing (and those do seem wide.)


Bigger or faster or both. For a more efficient long-range design, flying wings are well-suited to the Martian atmosphere.

Balloons are also great for Mars. You can think of the Martian atmosphere as being roughly equivalent to high altitude on Earth, so what flies well at the edge of Earth’s atmosphere will do well on Mars.


I’m just going to take a wild guess at what’s beyond that next hill: more rocks and dust.

Don’t we already have a decent map of the place from the Mars Global Surveyor project?


Pretty cool. I remember talking to a family friend about 15 years ago- he was employed at some aerospace company and was working on designs for martian (winged) aircraft. Funny how far out we work on this stuff.


So why did not not go with the highly stable and proven Quad design as opposed to the counter rotating design they have.


Maybe the increased efficiency was needed just to get the thing off the ground in the Martian atmosphere?


Yes, it’s all rocks and dust up there, but the people driving Mars rovers are geologists. Rocks and dust is their bread and butter.

A drone would give you an order of magnitude better resolution. Being able to see the landscape from 30-ish meters up would enable the rover drivers to plan their route (to avoid the dangerous rocks and dust, skip the boring rocks and dust, and get straight to the really interesting rocks and dust) far better than relying on the rover’s ground level view plus satellite photos.

ETA: even if it can only rise a few feet in the air, which seems to be what the promo video shows, being able to see past the next rise can save the rover drivers huge amounts of wasted time, considering how many days it takes a rover to drive even moderate distances on Mars.


NASA and superstitious behavior:


And perhaps they can clean the solar panels of the rover once in a while by hovering the helicopter over it.



He said I could drive a CAR, on MARS.



So there’s, like, air in space?



To add to what @RickMycroft added, it’ll also be very light and very small. Less than 2 kg, and the size of a football.


Perhaps. Or that this was in design phase way back when quads were the toys over at MIT which I suspect is likely the case.