Manufacturing News from the Engineered Designer Perspective

NASA Plans to Send Robotic Helicopter to Mars in 2020

NASA has announced plans to send a small, autonomous flying machine, dubbed Mars Helicopter, alongside their new rover in the 2020 mission. The two will survey Mars, with the helicopter providing a bird’s eye view of the red planet.

The helicopter will travel to Mars with the rover attached to its underbelly. Once they have reached Mars, the rover will deploy the helicopter on the surface and drive away, leaving the helicopter to unpack itself and attempt flight.

Because Mars is approximately 78 million kilometers from Earth, signals take a long time to travel between the two planets. Due to the limited ability to communicate with and control the helicopter, it will need to be fully autonomous.

The helicopter is much smaller and lighter than traditional helicopters, and it will travel ten times faster than helicopters on Earth due to an ultra-thin Martian atmosphere. “The altitude record for a helicopter flying here on Earth is about 40,000 feet,” said Mimi Aung, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Mars Helicopter project manager.

“The atmosphere of Mars is only one per cent that of Earth, so when our helicopter is on the Martian surface, it’s already at the Earth equivalent of 100,000 feet up. To make it fly at that low atmospheric density, we had to scrutinize everything, make it as light as possible while being as strong and as powerful as it can possibly be.

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory has worked on the helicopter for over four years, though they debated whether to actually send it to Mars, as financial and technical hurdles brought garnered concerns over the feasibility of sending the small aircraft to Mars. After much deliberation, it was decided that the helicopter would be sent alongside the rover on the 2020 mission.

This will allow the agency to send the helicopter without risking complete mission failure, as the primary agenda of the 2020 mission is to replace the aging Curiosity rover. If successful, the helicopter and its cameras will provide a clear view of the surface, allowing scientists to scope out the red planet in far greater detail than has previously been possible.

Successful flights for the helicopter would also open the door for similar missions in the future, providing scientists with a unique view covering a much larger area over less time compared to the rover, which generally travels slowly. The Curiosity rover, for instance, has only covered approximately 18.3 kilometers since it landed on Mars in 2012.

“NASA has a proud history of firsts,” said the agency’s 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.”

Latest Stories

Volvo to Expand Production of XC40 SUV in Europe and China

Volvo to Expand Production of XC40 SUV in Europe and China

​Volvo is expanding production of its XC40 SUV in Europe and China in an effort to meet rising demand. According to the company, nearly 80,000 orders have been placed for the SUV, which prompted the company to expand production at its Ghent manufacturing facility. Production capacity will be added at the company’s Luqiao plant in…

Nexen Energy Expansion Announced

Nexen Energy Expansion Announced

​Nexen Energy recently announced that it will spend approximately $400 billion on a 26,000-barrel-per-day expansion of its Long Lake oil sands project in northern Alberta. Plans include adding three steam-driven well pads that will send bitumen to its existing facilities. According to a company spokesperson, site preparation has already begun, with production slated to being…

How Greener Grids Can Stay Lit

How Greener Grids Can Stay Lit

​California recently made headlines after becoming the first state to require solar panels on all new homes. While the move seems at first glance as a major step in the right direction, it also poses a lot of questions regarding the feasibility of the move and its effect on existing distribution networks. ​In order to…

Jaguar Land Rover Set to Move Discovery Production from United Kingdom to Slovakia

Jaguar Land Rover Set to Move Discovery Production from United Kingdom to Slovakia

​Jaguar Land Rover is gearing up for a move from a plant near Birmingham, England to one in Slovakia, a move that is facing criticism as it jeopardizes hundreds of jobs. The company stated in April that approximately 1,000 posts currently filled by workers on short-term contracts would be eliminated following the move and that…

Elon Musk’s Boring Company Making Waves with Latest Announcement

Elon Musk’s Boring Company Making Waves with Latest Announcement

​Elon Musk’s Boring Company gained worldwide attention when Chicago chose the company to build a futuristic, high-speed transportation link between downtown Chicago and the O’Hare Airport. ​“We’re really excited to work with the Mayor and the City to bring this new high-speed public transportation system to Chicago!” said The Boring Company via Twitter. The system,…

Could the Future of Energy be Entirely Renewable?

Could the Future of Energy be Entirely Renewable?

​As the world shifts toward greener alternatives to fossil fuels and eco-friendly lifestyles, we begin to wonder just how far we are capable of going. Are there enough options and resources available to meet all our energy needs in environmentally-friendly ways? Is the vision of a green future with 100 per cent renewable energy feasible?…

Airbus and Bombardier Finalize Deal

Airbus and Bombardier Finalize Deal

​According to a dual announcement earlier this month, Airbus and Bombardier have finalized the C Series partnership agreement which was first announced on October 16th. Bombardier struck the deal with Airbus amid a trade dispute with Boeing, which claimed that the Canadian plane received illegal government aid that unfairly shut out the competition. The partnership…

Researchers Test Feasibility of EmDrive and Mach Effect Thrusters

Researchers Test Feasibility of EmDrive and Mach Effect Thrusters

​A team of physicists from Technische Universität in Dresden, Germany recently tested the feasibility of EmDrive and Mach Effect Thrusters. The EmDrive, an experimental space engine design, gained worldwide attention after NASA reported that the engine was being tested to discover its merits. Two years later, no further updates have been presented, which led the…

Crude Oil Prices Uncertain as OPEC Meets to Discuss Supply

Crude Oil Prices Uncertain as OPEC Meets to Discuss Supply

​Crude oil prices fell in several markets this week pending a June 22nd meeting of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries in Vienna. Prior to the meeting, both OPEC and non-OPEC producers will come together to discuss production levels at seminars scheduled for June 20th and 21st. ​“Last week, we saw some news stories indicating…

Auto Industry Expected to Meet 2025 Standards

Auto Industry Expected to Meet 2025 Standards

​The Union of Concerned Scientists, which meets every few years to discuss the auto industry’s emission reduction progress, released this year’s analysis. The analysis, which was based on model year 2017 vehicles, shows that the industry has reached the lowest levels yet in both smog-forming and global warming emissions from new vehicles. However, that progression…

1 2 3 85Next →

Other Popular News and Stories

  • Manufacturing the sole industry showing job losses in February
  • RV industry has growing role in Canada's economy: study
  • SPPCA's new landing gear facility opening in Mississauga
  • Pratt & Whitney Canada announces helicopter engine contracts
  • Volkswagen to produce super-efficient hybrid
  • DART Aerospace re-branding itself to reach wider markets
  • Canadian oil production up; producers turning to railways for shipment
  • Japex to buy into west coast LNG development
  • Skilled labour shortage in world oil industry: report
  • Canada keeping up pressure on US for Keystone XL approval
  • Economy managed slight growth in Q4, but shrank in December
  • Clean energy expected to surge as pv costs drop
  • Canadian business, except energy, had profitable Q4: Statistics Canada
  • Bombardier nearly ready to flight test CSeries
  • Miners struggling with higher costs, lower prices
  • FTG Aerospace to supply avionics to Rockwell Collins
  • BC refinery close to financing deal
  • Bombardier holds update on CSeries aircraft
  • GM investing $250 million at Ingersoll plant
  • Russian leasing company orders 42 CSeries jets from Bombardier