NASA’s Mars Helicopter flight demonstration project has just entered the final testing phase and passed a number of key tests. In 2021, this small, autonomous helicopter will be the first vehicle in history to attempt to establish the viability of heavier-than-air vehicles flying on another planet. “Nobody’s built a Mars Helicopter before, so we are continuously entering new territory. Our flight model – the actual vehicle that will travel to Mars – has recently passed several important tests. We expect to complete our final tests and refinements and deliver the helicopter to the High Bay 1 clean room for integration with the rover sometime this summer,” said MiMi Aung, project manager for the Mars Helicopter at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. Read more for a video and additional information
Since this is solely a technology demonstrator, the Mars Helicopter will not be equipped with science instruments, but rather its purpose is to confirm that powered flight in the tenuous Martian atmosphere (which has 1% the density of Earth’s) is possible and that it can be controlled from Earth over large interplanetary distances. However, its camera will be capable of providing high-resolution color images to further demonstrate the vehicle’s potential for documenting the Red Planet.