In A First, IIT Alumnus Creates ‘Helicopter That Can Fly On Mars..!’

Representational Image - Sakshi Post

HYDERABAD: Bob Balaram, an Indian Institute of Technology alumnus, has created a 'Mars Helicopter' that will fly in the sky of Planet Mars.

Describing the mission as a "kind of a Wright Brothers moment on another planet", it will be the first time that a powered aircraft will have flown to Mars, or any other planet besides Earth. The chopper will ride to Mars this summer with NASA's Perseverance rover and is currently stationed at the Kennedy Space Center, a news agency reported.

Balaram is a robotist technologist with over 35 years of experience. He said that the making of the chopper as a perfectly blank canvas but that came with restrictions. He compared flying on Earth at a 100,000-foot (30,500-meter) altitude -- about seven times higher than a typical terrestrial helicopter can fly. Balaram said that the helicopter cannot carry much weight, which posed as another challenge.

The 'Mars Helicopter' will be four-pound (1.8-kilogram) with two pairs of light counter-rotating blades -- an upper and lower pair, to slice through the Martian atmosphere. Each pair of blades spans four feet (1.2 meters) in diameter. Once it was made, the Helicopter was tested in a vacuum chamber and the and the 25-foot Space Simulation Chamber at JPL.

About two-and-a-half months after landing at Jezero Crater, the Mars Helicopter team will have a window of about 30 days to perform a technology demonstration in the actual environment of the planet, starting with a series of vehicle checkouts. This will be followed by the attempts to fly in Martian atmosphere.

However, Balaram also said that this is a high-risk, high-reward technology demonstration, and there are also possibilities that there could be failure.

Speaking about the mission, project manager Aung was quoted saying to the news agency, "Bob is the inventor of our Mars Helicopter. He innovated the design and followed up on that vision to its fruition as chief engineer through all phases of design, development and test."

"Whenever we encountered a technical roadblock -- and we encountered many roadblocks -- we always turned to Bob, always carries an inexhaustible set of potential solutions to be considered. Come to think of it, I don't think I have ever seen Bob feeling stuck at any point!" Aung added.

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