The Mars Helicopter, a small, autonomous rotorcraft, will travel with NASA’s Mars 2020 rover, currently scheduled to launch in July 2020, to demonstrate the viability and potential of heavier-than-air vehicles on the Red Planet. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
In over five decades of robotic exploration, NASA has sent orbiters, landers, rovers and even Cubesats to Mars. The space agency announced on Friday, May 11, 2018 that their next robotic mission to the Red Planet will carry a helicopter. The Mars Helicopter, a small autonomous rotorcraft, will travel with NASA’s Mars 2020 rover mission, scheduled to launch in July 2020, in a effort to demonstrate the viability of heavier-than-air vehicles on Mars.
“NASA has a proud history of firsts,” said NASA’s new Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “The idea of a helicopter flying the skies of another planet is thrilling. The Mars Helicopter holds much promise for our future science, discovery, and exploration missions to Mars.”
The Mars Helicopter began as a technology development program of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in August of 2013. Following four years of design, testing and re-design, the resulting rotorcraft weighs just under four pounds (1.8 kilograms) and is about the size of a softball. In order ...