NASA has announced that it is to send its “Mars Helicopter”, a small autonomous rotorcraft, to Mars with the agency’s Mars 2020 rover mission, currently scheduled to launch in July 2020. Started in August 2013 as a technology development project at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), the Mars Helicopter is a small drone weighing just 1.8 kg. To fly in the very thin Martian atmosphere, its twin counter-rotating blades will have to rotate at almost 3,000 rpm – about 10 times the rate of a helicopter on Earth.
“NASA has a proud history of firsts,” said NASA 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.”