Make a Paper Mars Helicopter

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Let’s dive into space!

Boundless, fantastic, mysterious – so distant and at the same time so close, so native and at the same time so alien space attracts us, inspires and motivates us to never stop exploring the space around us, ask difficult questions and seek answers, dream of discovering new worlds and believe in the existence of something really unexpected.

If you are interested in space, construction and research, then this post is for you! Our activity today is to create a cardboard rover for our own space mission.

NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover launched in July 2020, carrying the first helicopter to the surface of Mars! This helicopter has to be lightweight and have large blades to fly on Mars. These large blades rotate so quickly that they generate enough lift to overcome the gravity of the Red Planet and lift off the ground.

Our project

In this project, students will build a paper helicopter. Then, just as NASA engineers had to try out different versions of the Mars helicopter before coming up with a final design, students will experiment with the design of their helicopters to see what works best.

Procedures:

1. Students describe how a helicopter flies. They conclude that the rotary blades should be slightly at an angle so that they can press on the air and lift the helicopter off the ground.
2. The students conclude that the force of the blades against the air can overcome the weight of the helicopter and push it off the ground. The helicopter works against the force of gravity – which constantly pulls the helicopter down to the ground – and generates an ascending force called “lift”, rotating the blades in the air. When the lifting force is greater than the force of gravity, the helicopter rises from the ground and flies.

Discussion:

1. Which helicopters reach the ground earlier: those that rotate faster or slower?
2. How does the speed of rotation affect the flight of a real helicopter?
3. How was your experience in designing and testing a paper helicopter similar to how NASA engineers designed and tested the Ingenuity Mars helicopter?

Rating

1. Students have the opportunity to experiment with the design of their helicopter to change the characteristics.
2. Students demonstrated the ability to predict rotation based on experimental data.

Inspiration for choosing career in future

Perhaps this lesson will help students choose a future profession. After all, an astronaut is a profession not only of today but also a profession of the future. Probably, one day there will come a day when each of us will be able to feel like an astronaut and see the beauty of our planet from the height of a space orbit.

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