Spacesuits have been bulky since before Apollo 11. A skintight design may change that .

Spacesuits have been bulky since before Apollo 11. A skintight design may change that

NASA is putting the finishing touches on its Mars helicopter

mars helicopterThe Mars 2020 mission will truly be one for the record books when it begins in July of next year. Not only is the Mars 2020 rover one of the most advanced piece of equipment that will ever be sent to the Red Planet, it’s also equipped with its very own helicopter.

The vehicle, named simply the Mars Helicopter, is the first of its kind, and a great deal of work as been put into perfecting its simple design and ensuring that it can withstand the conditions of Mars. Now, in a new blog post, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory says that the helicopter has entered its final testing phase and it’s already passed many of its trials with flying colors.

“Nobody’s built a Mars Helicopter before, so we are continuously entering new territory,” MiMi Aung, manager of the Mars Helicopter project at JPL, said in a statement. “Our flight model – the actual vehicle that will travel to Mars – has recently passed several important tests.”

The tiny copter will be affixed to the belly of the Mars 2020 rover during the flight to Mars and throughout the landing phase. Once the rover is on the surface, it will deploy the helicopter.

The helicopter doesn’t have any scientific objectives this time around, and it’s being sent to Mars simply as a testing and demonstration vehicle to provide scientists with information on flight within the thin atmosphere of Mars. The helicopter’s sole instrument is a high-resolution camera that, NASA hopes, will capture some lovely shots of the Red Planet and relay them back to Earth.

In the future, helicopter-like vehicles may be a regular addition to Mars missions since they afford greater flexibility to relocate to new areas in short periods of time. Rovers are, generally speaking, pretty slow, but if NASA can perfect the art of flight on Mars it will have the power to explore new areas rapidly.

The Moon’s largest crater is hiding something, and astronomers don’t know what

Compared to other bodies in our Solar System, Earth’s moon isn’t particularly huge. However, its relatively small size belies one of its most interesting features, which is a colossal crater measuring over 1,500 miles across. Now, researchers believe the crater, which forms a huge basin on the far side of the Moon near its south pole, is hiding something.

In a new study published in Geophysical Research Letters, researchers reveal the discovery of a huge mass hiding beneath the crater. An incredibly dense area under the lunar surface was detected with gravitational sensors, pointing to the presence of something massive lurking below.

Before you go imagining a mysterious subterranean civilization of Moon Men hiding out below the lunar surface, that’s not exactly what scientists have in mind. Instead, the researchers believe the dense mass is actually leftover material from the object that struck the Moon and created the colossal crater.

“One of the explanations of this extra mass is that the metal from the asteroid that formed this crater is still embedded in the Moon’s mantle,” lead author of the paper, Peter B. James, Ph.D., said in a statement. “Imagine taking a pile of metal five times larger than the Big Island of Hawaii and burying it underground. That’s roughly how much unexpected mass we detected.”

It’s an incredibly large mass of something, but the asteroid metal theory isn’t the only idea being floated. Another possibility is that the dense mass is a buildup of material still left over from when the Moon’s hot liquid rock cooled after formation.

With humans headed back to the Moon sooner rather than later, the crater could be an interesting location for further study, though NASA and other space-faring organizations already have plenty of scientific objectives on their plates. Still, it sure would be neat to see what’s down there.

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