Author Topic: NASA to decide soon whether flying drone will launch with Mars 2020 rover  (Read 7050 times)

Offline Star One

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Really hope this novel piece of equipment does accompany the rover to Mars.

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Testing of a lightweight robotic helicopter designed to fly in the alien atmosphere of Mars has produced encouraging results in recent months, and NASA officials expect to decide soon whether the aerial drone will accompany the agency’s next rover to the red planet set for liftoff in 2020.

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Jim Watzin, director of NASA’s robotic Mars exploration program at the agency’s headquarters, said last month that an engineering model of the helicopter has completed 86 minutes of flying time in a test chamber configured to simulate the Martian atmosphere.

“The system has been built, it’s been ground tested, and then we put it into a chamber that was backfilled at Mars atmosphere (conditions),” Watzin said Feb. 20 in a presentation to the Mars Exploration Program Analysis Group, a panel of scientists that assists NASA in planning Mars missions. “Some parts were removed from the helicopter to compensate for the 1g (gravity) field to get the proper relationship of mass and acceleration at Mars, and we did controlled takeoffs, slewing, translations, hovers and controlled landings in the chamber. We’ve done that multiple times.”

https://spaceflightnow.com/2018/03/15/nasa-to-decide-soon-whether-flying-drone-will-launch-with-mars-2020-rover/

Offline speedevil

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Also a great candidate to just dump large numbers of with simple parachutes, as it is its own landing system.

Offline Jim

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Also a great candidate to just dump large numbers of with simple parachutes, as it is its own landing system.

no, parachute don't work for landings.
« Last Edit: 03/16/2018 08:01 PM by Jim »

Offline speedevil

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Also a great candidate to just dump large numbers of with simple parachutes, as it is its own landing system.

no, parachute don't work for landings.

Why doesn't a parachute work?
Aeroshell, parachute, ditch the aeroshell, wait till steady state speed, pop out the rotors, land.

It of course does not work at all for something the size of Mars 2020.
However, for a kilogram helicopter, that is already designed to fly in the martian atmosphere, taking most of the velocity off with the parachute would seem quite adequate.
« Last Edit: 03/16/2018 08:04 PM by speedevil »

Offline Jim

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Also a great candidate to just dump large numbers of with simple parachutes, as it is its own landing system.

no, parachute don't work for landings.

Why doesn't a parachute work?
Aeroshell, parachute, ditch the aeroshell, wait till steady state speed, pop out the rotors, land.

yeah right.

Offline TrevorMonty

I hope drone is selected even if it is high risk. If successful it could dramatically increase amount ground rover can travel in a day.

Could even be useful with landers, survey area around lander then reposition lander to new high interest area. Drone survey would allow pin point landing by lander.

Offline redliox

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I hope drone is selected even if it is high risk. If successful it could dramatically increase amount ground rover can travel in a day.

Could even be useful with landers, survey area around lander then reposition lander to new high interest area. Drone survey would allow pin point landing by lander.

It would certainly be useful in scouting and surveying, especially before humans were to land at a site.  And yeah, for a 'dull' stationary mission like InSight or Phoenix it would add useful PR flare and context about the surrounding terrain; akin to Sojourner for Pathfinder but more functional and longer range.

We've been waiting on the decisions for both the landing site and the helicopter for a while.  This drone probably has a 50/50 chance.  Knowing budgets, I will play the pessimist and say it probably will get cut in the end.  However, the enhanced (i.e. zoom) cameras for the 2020 rover had been offered to Curiosity/MSL before but couldn't be added; likewise if the helicopter drone can't fly with 2020 we could see it on either the next probe or with humans.
"Let the trails lead where they may, I will follow."
-Tigatron

Offline yg1968

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Offline Dalhousie

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I hope drone is selected even if it is high risk. If successful it could dramatically increase amount ground rover can travel in a day.

Could even be useful with landers, survey area around lander then reposition lander to new high interest area. Drone survey would allow pin point landing by lander.

It would certainly be useful in scouting and surveying, especially before humans were to land at a site.  And yeah, for a 'dull' stationary mission like InSight or Phoenix it would add useful PR flare and context about the surrounding terrain; akin to Sojourner for Pathfinder but more functional and longer range.


Longer range certainly, but more functional?  Unlikely. Sojourner carried multiple cameras and an APX.  the helicopter will just be a flying eyeball.
"There is nobody who is a bigger fan of sending robots to Mars than me... But I believe firmly that the best, the most comprehensive, the most successful exploration will be done by humans" Steve Squyres

Offline Star One

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Another article on the same topic:
http://spacenews.com/decision-expected-soon-on-adding-helicopter-to-mars-2020/

It’s that kind of overly conservative attitude expressed in that article when it comes to trying out new technology that allows a gap for more go getting companies to fill in the exploitation of Mars.

I understand why he’s against it just can’t believe they would actually include it if it was that detrimental to the science mission.
« Last Edit: 05/08/2018 11:05 AM by Star One »

Offline AegeanBlue

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I am under the impression that if the drone does go through, it will reduce the risk for Dragonfly.

Offline ccdengr

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I am under the impression that if the drone does go through, it will reduce the risk for Dragonfly.
The two have nothing much to do with each other except both being rotorcraft -- different designers, different configuration, different gravity, different atmospheric density and composition.

Offline AegeanBlue

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The Europa Lander builds on Mars heritage: rather than design from a clean sheet they take the EDL heritage of the rovers and landers. If you look at the presentation on the Mars HSF landers and the Phobos/Deimos landers, they will reduce risk by using the same cage that Phobos/Deimos landers have and adopt for Mars entry. Similarly, lessons from the Mars helicopter get used for Dragonfly. It is a very different atmospheres and gravities, but the needs of autonomy and cold operation are pretty similar. Not to mention the sterilization requirements. Magellan was Voyager 3, down to lots of hardware being Voyager spares. Dragonfly will use tech that the helicopter pioneers.

Offline ccdengr

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Dragonfly will use tech that the helicopter pioneers.
Read http://dragonfly.jhuapl.edu/docs/DragonflyTechDigestAPL.pdf and tell me if it has anything to do with JPL's toy coaxial.

Offline Dalhousie

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Dragonfly will use tech that the helicopter pioneers.
Read http://dragonfly.jhuapl.edu/docs/DragonflyTechDigestAPL.pdf and tell me if it has anything to do with JPL's toy coaxial.

It will have a useful function so not a toy
"There is nobody who is a bigger fan of sending robots to Mars than me... But I believe firmly that the best, the most comprehensive, the most successful exploration will be done by humans" Steve Squyres

Offline Phil Stooke

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" the helicopter will just be a flying eyeball."

Yes... but a flying eyeball that can look at stuff.  For instance, one idea is to scout ahead for a few hundred meters to check out the future drive path.  Now, most often, the rover is only commanded to drive as far as its most recent stereo imaging reaches, occasionally adding more distance just using hazard avoidance software.  But the longer view might permit longer drives, great for getting from study area 1 to study area 2 as fast as possible.  This is only an experimental version of the concept, to be used a few times to see if it can be made to work effectively.  If it works well, an enhanced version might be used much more on future missions, including human missions.  So that's quite the eyeball.

Offline Dalhousie

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" the helicopter will just be a flying eyeball."

Yes... but a flying eyeball that can look at stuff.  For instance, one idea is to scout ahead for a few hundred meters to check out the future drive path.  Now, most often, the rover is only commanded to drive as far as its most recent stereo imaging reaches, occasionally adding more distance just using hazard avoidance software.  But the longer view might permit longer drives, great for getting from study area 1 to study area 2 as fast as possible.  This is only an experimental version of the concept, to be used a few times to see if it can be made to work effectively.  If it works well, an enhanced version might be used much more on future missions, including human missions.  So that's quite the eyeball.

I've used flying eyeballs in  a range of contexts and they can be very useful. 
"There is nobody who is a bigger fan of sending robots to Mars than me... But I believe firmly that the best, the most comprehensive, the most successful exploration will be done by humans" Steve Squyres

Offline speedevil

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" the helicopter will just be a flying eyeball."
In addition to other things mentioned, the 'eyeball' has to land.
When it lands, you can pretty much for free get 0.1mm or so footage of what's under the legs, blown somewhat clear by a brief wind of 200MPH or so.

Adding a multispectral imager with some filters adds another several grams.
Off-the-shelf XRF instruments are 1.5kg, it seems at least plausible that a 'heavy' version of this helicopter could carry the stripped down unshielded sensing head without much change. (one was on Sojourner).
Hitting the surface with a several watt diode LASER pulse and seeing what happens can also be very light.

(the helicopter has some 500g of margin, which would make it considerably less able to fly well, but still able to fly).

A simple sample collection mechanism - a reel of tacky tape running over one leg, for example might be an interesting option.


Offline TrevorMonty

" the helicopter will just be a flying eyeball."
In addition to other things mentioned, the 'eyeball' has to land.
When it lands, you can pretty much for free get 0.1mm or so footage of what's under the legs, blown somewhat clear by a brief wind of 200MPH or so.

Adding a multispectral imager with some filters adds another several grams.
Off-the-shelf XRF instruments are 1.5kg, it seems at least plausible that a 'heavy' version of this helicopter could carry the stripped down unshielded sensing head without much change. (one was on Sojourner).
Hitting the surface with a several watt diode LASER pulse and seeing what happens can also be very light.

(the helicopter has some 500g of margin, which would make it considerably less able to fly well, but still able to fly).

A simple sample collection mechanism - a reel of tacky tape running over one leg, for example might be an interesting option.
For version 1.0 best to keep it simple and lite as possible. All it needs to do is be eyes for rover.

Field tests JPL did on earth demostrated a dramatic increase in distance a rover could travel with a drone scouting the terrain.


Offline AegeanBlue

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Dragonfly will use tech that the helicopter pioneers.
Read http://dragonfly.jhuapl.edu/docs/DragonflyTechDigestAPL.pdf and tell me if it has anything to do with JPL's toy coaxial.


When I was doing my PhD (in GIS and Remote Sensing, I am on the Earth Observation side) we had a high level person come from Goddard to give us a lecture on Landsat 8. Since Curiosity had just landed he told us, while we were waiting for the amphitheater to finish with the previous class, that he was on the review committee of the Skycrane. When he first read about the Skycrane, his first reaction was, "you got to be kidding me". They took though the time and explained how it is supposed to work, and he signed off.

Just because you do not see something, it doesn't mean it's not there

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