A ROBOTIC helicopter designed by NASA to fly in the skies of Mars has passed its flight test.
The helicopter, a self-flying drone weighing just 1.8kg, is due to launch with NASA’s Mars 2020 rover next year and will reach the planet in 2021. It is designed to take photos from high above Mars’ surface.
In January the helicopter completed its flight test in California, inside a vacuum-sealed chamber that recreates the atmosphere and gravity of Mars.
Mars’ atmosphere is 100 times thinner than Earth’s. To stay airborne in these conditions, the drone comes equipped with rotor blades that spin ten times as fast as those of a normal helicopter.
If all goes to plan, this will be the first vehicle ever to fly from the surface of another planet and will pave the way for more complicated missions in the future.