APR 12, 2020 4:52 AM PDT

NASA Attaches Autonomous Helicopter to Perseverance Rover

WRITTEN BY: Anthony Bouchard

Those paying any attention to NASA’s periodic updates during these past several weeks should have perceived what seems like an unusually rapid progression of evolvement for the upcoming Martian Perseverance rover (formerly called the Mars 2020 rover before getting renamed last month).

Just a couple of weeks ago, NASA installed the mission’s Adaptive Caching Assembly and Bit Carousel, which will work in unison to help Perseverance drill into the Martian surface and analyze the samples it collects. A few weeks later, NASA fitted Perseverance with its wheels and parachute system that will fly to Mars with the mission to ensure safe travels. But even that wasn’t the end of the assembly line…

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Just this past week, Perseverance received preparations for yet another vital mission component: the autonomous helicopter. For those that don’t already know, this fully autonomous helicopter will regularly scout the rover’s surroundings on the red planet to help mission scientists ascertain where the rover should go next after completing primary objectives at the locations it visits.

Related: It’s finally the year of the Mars 2020 mission

While it was initially installed back in September, the installation was mostly temporary as NASA still needed to prepare electrical connections and the likes. This past week saw this achievement come into focus…

Weighing just around four pounds, the autonomous helicopter is solar-powered and sports lightweight carbon fiber rotors that measure almost four feet in diameter. The installation into Perseverance’s belly encompassed the process of ensuring that all the electrical contacts between the helicopter and the rover worked and that the delivery system would launch the helicopter into the Martian air successfully.

In addition to implementing the autonomous helicopter, NASA engineers also prepared the Perseverance rover’s decent stage by filling each of its four fuel tanks with 884 pounds’ worth of propellant. The descent stage is intended to slow the rover’s fall as it enters Mars’ atmosphere, and to divert its landing if necessary if the landing site isn’t quite as ideal as initially thought. 

"The last hundred days before any Mars launch is chock-full of significant milestones," said David Gruel, the man at NASA responsible for overseeing the Mars 2020 project. "Fueling the descent stage is a big step. While we will continue to test and evaluate its performance as we move forward with launch preparations, it is now ready to fulfill its mission of placing Perseverance on the surface on Mars."

Related: NASA’s Perseverance rover will have the best camera system of any Martian rover to date

NASA currently targets a launch sometime this Summer in order to take full advantage of the time and fuel-saving Hohmann Transfer Orbit – an event only made possible when both the Earth and Mars reside closest to one another in their respective orbits around the Sun. With the launch window rapidly approaching, it may come as no surprise that the American space agency is working overtime to complete the project on time.

Hopefully all this time and effort yields some important science. But only time will tell for certain.

Source: NASA

About the Author
  • Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
You May Also Like
AUG 14, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
Cosmic Rays Might Have Played a Role in Shaping Our Genetic Materials
AUG 14, 2020
Cosmic Rays Might Have Played a Role in Shaping Our Genetic Materials
DNA, whose signature double helix structure scored Watson and Crick (and Frankland presumably according to many) a Nobel ...
OCT 16, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
The "Missing" Laureate at 2020 Physics Nobel
OCT 16, 2020
The "Missing" Laureate at 2020 Physics Nobel
Last week, the science community celebrated the awarding of this year's Nobel Physics Prize to a trio of black hole ...
OCT 29, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
Einstein: Gravity? What Gravity?
OCT 29, 2020
Einstein: Gravity? What Gravity?
Try imagining a fictional conversation between Issac Newton and Albert Einstein: "The apple falls toward the ground ...
NOV 13, 2020
Space & Astronomy
Researchers Observe the Birth of a Magnetar
NOV 13, 2020
Researchers Observe the Birth of a Magnetar
Scientists think they have witnessed the birth of a magnetar for the first time, when a massive burst of gamma rays took ...
NOV 19, 2020
Space & Astronomy
Martian Water Vapor Gets Swept Into Space
NOV 19, 2020
Martian Water Vapor Gets Swept Into Space
Mars was once a planet with oceans of water. So what happened to all of it? Researchers used a tool called MAVEN (Mars A ...
JAN 17, 2021
Space & Astronomy
New Way to Extract Energy from Black Holes
JAN 17, 2021
New Way to Extract Energy from Black Holes
In his theory of general relativity, Einstein predicted that black holes harbor an enormous amount of energy. And now, r ...
Loading Comments...