back to article Chinese boffins pitch quadcopter for Mars sample return mission

Inspired by the success of NASA's Ingenuity Mars helicopter, Chinese boffins are proposing a more capable extraterrestrial flier for a planned Mars sample return mission.  A recent paper from researchers at China's Harbin Institute of Technology proposes using a quadcopter for Martian operations, as opposed to coaxial design …

  1. The commentard formerly known as Mister_C Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    How nice

    We built a quadcopter and sent it to Mars and found...

    Somebody had already dug up all these samples and left them waiting to be picked up...

    It would be remiss of us not to tidy up

  2. jake Silver badge

    Quadcopter on Mars?

    Daft idea.

    There are reasons NASA didn't go that route, among them weight, reliability, size and power consumption.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Quadcopter on Mars?

      the only reason I can think of for using a quadcopter is to improve landing accuracy, but I can't see that the increased complexity and power consumption is worth it. (Saying that, the rotor linkages are simpler with a quadcopter.... I'm assuming the NASA helicopter alters it's thrust vector by moving it's centre of mass relative to the rotor axis.)

      1. Spherical Cow Silver badge

        Re: Quadcopter on Mars?

        Quadcopters aren't that complicated really. Some random dude built one from his dead cat back in 2012, so I'm sure Chinese scientists will prove to be up to the task.

        https://www.businessinsider.in/tech/the-artist-who-turned-his-dead-cat-into-a-drone-is-building-a-helicopter-out-of-a-cow/slidelist/52399063.cms

        p.s. I'm a bit concerned about his next project though, I do hope he's not looking for a spherical one.

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: Quadcopter on Mars?

          Yeahbut ... He isn't flying his dead cat several minutes (at least) from the nearest repair technician and parts bin, with the only charge capability built in to it, at somewhat fewer watts per square paw print than in Earth orbit, and not enough air to swing a ... er... you get the idea.

          Spherical? Nah. Purple.

  3. HuBo
    Thumb Up

    Super Trooper

    This is great news. The more international competition there is in this space, the harder we'll work at outdoing our competitors ... I'm optimistic for many win-win outcomes from this, over time (so long as they don't bring back little green creatures bent on farming humanity as a source of fiber)!

  4. Emir Al Weeq

    Why drop samples near the lander?

    I don't understand why they want the 'copter to drop samples next to the lander, onto the contaminated soil they want to avoid.

    Would it not make more sense to deliver direct to the lander?

    1. John Robson Silver badge

      Re: Why drop samples near the lander?

      Risk of screwing the lander by dropping the copter onto it...

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Why drop samples near the lander?

      I'm more curious about how the proposed payload of 100g is going to be excavated and packaged up for the quadcopter to collect. Or are they just planning on one-upmanship and just going to take some regolith from the surface that's been blasted by solar and cosmic radiation? The lander is going to be stationary, so there doesn't appear to be any plans to get "pristine" regolith from at least a littler under the surface by drilling or digging.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Why drop samples near the lander?

        "Or are they just planning on one-upmanship and just going to take some regolith from the surface that's been blasted by solar and cosmic radiation?"

        Yes.

    3. Spherical Cow Silver badge

      Re: Why drop samples near the lander?

      The sample will be put inside a sealed container before it is dropped next to the lander.

  5. Killing Time

    A little click baity with the subheading?

    Falling behind who or what? NASA have been surveying Mars remotely and on the surface for decades, flying across the surface for the best part of a year and supposedly now falling behind because some foreign researchers have announced a bright idea?

    There is no one even close to their actual achievements.

    I accept that it's phrased to pique your interest but it has to have some basis in reality to maintain credibility.

    The Chinese proposal is just so much hot air and conjecture at the moment. Correct me if I'm wrong but to my knowledge they haven't even got to the general vicinity of the planet yet?

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: A little click baity with the subheading?

      "Correct me if I'm wrong but to my knowledge they haven't even got to the general vicinity of the planet yet?"

      As mentioned in TFA, there was the Zhurong rover, deployed by the Tianwen-1 mission. Tianwen-1 entered Mars orbit in February of 2020, the rover successfully touched down in May of '21, and started trundling about a week or so later. It lasted about a year before going into hibernation and not coming out of it.

      There is also the lunar/asteroid fly-by mission Chang'e 2, which, although contact has been lost, should be out around Mars orbit by now if my memory serves.

      1. Killing Time

        Re: A little click baity with the subheading?

        Ok I, stand corrected. Missed the reference to Zhurong as I was trying to fathom the relevance of the subheading, so less than three years ago the Chinese mounted one successful landing, limited exploration and presumably ongoing orbital mapping operations.

        It's a complete stretch in my book to include a secondary mission extension to an asteroid in which the craft has subsequently been lost as relevant to additional exploration of Mars so I believe my point still stands.

        As NASA have been exploring Mars not for a few years but for decades, who or what are NASA falling behind?

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