NASA has announced that it is sending a helicopter to Mars to explore the surface of the planet.
Named the Mars Helicopter, the aircraft aims to demonstrate the viability of heavier-than-air vehicles on other planets.
“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,” he said.
Development on the helicopter started in 2013 at NASA’s Jet Propulstion Laboratory, and it took NASA four years to produce a 1.8kg aircraft with twin counter-rotating blades.
Due to the much thinner Martian atmosphere, the blades of the aircraft need to spin about 10-times faster than those of a normal helicopter to generate lift.
The helicopter also contains built-in capabilities needed for operation on Mars, including solar cells and a heating mechanism.
NASA’s Mars helicopter is scheduled to launch in July 2020.