There are two robotic rovers traversing and exploring the surface of Mars – NASA’s Opportunity and Curiosity rovers.
These rovers, along with two others (Sojourner & Spirit) from past missions, use(d) specially made wheels to get around the Red Planet.
Instead of just wheels NASA now wants to try a different way to travel around Mars.
As a part of its planned Mars 2020 mission, the space agency says it will be sending a small, autonomous helicopter along with its next-generation rover.
They recently announced plans to fly its Mars Helicopter on a full 30-day test flight operation in the skies above the Red Planet’s surface.
NASA says the tests will include up to five flights that will fly incrementally farther distances of up to a few hundred meters, and for durations that will eventually be as long as 90 seconds.
“The altitude record for a helicopter flying here on Earth is about 40,000 feet. The atmosphere of Mars is only one percent that of Earth, so when our helicopter is on the Martian surface, it’s already at the Earth equivalent of 100,000 feet up,” said Mimi Aung, Mars Helicopter project manager at JPL in a NASA press release.
“To make it fly at that low atmospheric density, we had to scrutinize everything, make it as light as possible while being as strong and as powerful as it can possibly be,” she added.
The space agency plans to launch the Mars 2020 mission in July or August 2020, with touchdown on the Red Planet expected for some time in February 2021.