NASA mars helicopter to be the first autonomous aircraft on the red planet


soon, a helicopter will fly over the surface of mars. NASA’s next rover mission to the red planet is scheduled to launch july 2020. tagging along on this mission: an autonomous NASA mars helicopter, which will be the first flying (‘heavier-than-air’) vehicle to traverse the red planet. the less than 4 pound aircraft operates with a pair of counter-rotating blades. 

all images courtesy of NASA/JPL-caltech

here’s the mars-bound helicopter’s agenda: assessing the geology of its landing site, determining habitability of the area, venturing for signs of ancient life on mars, discovering resources and assets that could be beneficial or hazardous for us terrestrials. NASA also hopes the helicopter will succeed in capturing a rare birds-eye-view of the planet. if it does work the mission will have demonstrated the potential of helicopters as low-flying scouts and aerial vehicles to access locations not reachable by ground travel.

‘we already have great views of mars from the surface as well as from orbit’, says thomas zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s science mission directorate. ‘with the added dimension of a bird’s-eye view from a ‘marscopter,’ we can only imagine what future missions will achieve.‘