NASA’s live webcam stream showing the assembly of Mars Rover 2020

James Marshall
June 8, 2019

A newly installed webcam offers the public a live, bird's-eye view of NASA's Mars 2020 rover as it takes shape at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. Curiosity's two-year mission has long since lapsed and the rover has spent almost 2,500 days on Mars since landing back in 2012.

Science fiction is getting closer to reality folks!

Next year, NASA's Mars 2020 mission will launch a rover to the Red Planet aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket. The helicopter flight demonstration has passed a number of key tests as planned, without any trouble and is now close to final approval for launch.

There are still hurdles in the way for the team to overcome, such as the time lag involved in controlling the system from Earth. The challenge for powered flight is the very thin Martian atmosphere that has only 1% of the density of Earth's atmosphere.

The NASA Mars Helicopter team has now announced that the flight demonstrator project has passed several vital tests with "flying colors".

Recently, JPL conducted tests of the helicopter in "a simulated Martian environment" that put the helicopter through temperatures as low as minus 130 degrees Fahrenheit and flew it in a vacuum chamber that simulated Martian air - it was additionally attached to a "motorized lanyard" to help simulate Martian gravity. Lockheed Martin Space in Denver built the InSight spacecraft, including its cruise stage and lander, and supports spacecraft operations for the mission. Now, researchers are hopeful that the Mars chopper will become the first heavier-than-air vehicle to fly on another planet when the mission reaches the Red Planet in 2021. The aluminum base plate, side posts, and crossbeam around the helicopter protect the helicopter's landing legs and the attachment points that will hold it to the belly of the Mars 2020 rover. When it lands in Jezero Crater on February 18, 2021, the rover will also be the first spacecraft in the history of planetary exploration with the ability to accurately retarget its point of touchdown during the landing sequence. Once the rover is on the surface, it will deploy the helicopter. NASA hopes, it will capture some lovely shots of the Red Planet and relay them back to Earth.

Engineers in a Mars-like test area at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory try possible strategies to aid the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP3) on NASA's InSight lander, using engineering models of the lander, robotic arm and instrument.

"Future Mars missions could enlist second-generation helicopters to add an aerial dimension to their explorations, ' NASA officials added in the statement".

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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