NASA space helicopter set for record breaking Mars journey


NASA is making progress on its future Red Planet mission: Engineers recently attached NASA's Mars Helicopter to the belly of the Mars 2020 rover and it will be the first aircraft to fly on another planet. Students at nationwide public, private and home schools can enter an essay contest to explain why their proposed name should be picked. The victor will get to name the rover as well as watch the spacecraft launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida in July 2020, the agency announced.

In March, NASA's Mars Helicopter passed its first test flight and performed well in a Mars-like controlled environment in JPL's Space Simulator, a 25-foot-wide vacuum chamber where nitrogen, oxygen, and other gases were replaced with carbon dioxide, the key ingredient in the Red Planet's atmosphere.

"It is an exciting way to engage with a rover that will likely serve as the first leg of a Mars sample-return campaign, collecting and caching core samples from the Martian surface for scientists here on Earth to study for the first time", Bridenstine added.

The craft will detach from the rover and explore Mars from the air while the rover collects samples on the ground, NASA said. The victor of the contest will be invited by NASA to watch the launch of the mission. These essays will be divided into three groups, by grade level and then judged on the appropriateness, significance, and originality of both the name and the essay.

NASA began developing the Mars Helicopter Scout concept several years before rover assembly. "All that's missing is a great name!"

The 52 semifinalists in NASA's contest will each represent their age group in their state or U.S. territory.

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While we are a bit disappointed that NASA has extended the offer to everybody around the world we do understand why the scope of the competition was limited.

As part of the final selection process, the public will have an opportunity to vote online on the nine finalists in January 2020. Mars 2020 Rover is expected to land at Jezero Crater on February 18, 2021.

See NASA's next Mars rover quite literally coming together inside a clean room at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

The car-sized Mars 2020 rover is based on the Curiosity rover's configuration, according to space agency's website.

ExoMars is an ESA program in cooperation with Russian Space Agency Roscosmos with contribution of NASA.