NASA recently concluded the final tests of the Mars Helicopter. Through the Mars 2020 mission, the helicopter will be the first machine to fly on another planet.

The agency's mission to the Red Planet will feature a new robotic rover known as Perseverance. It will be accompanied by the Mars Helicopter, which is designed to explore areas that the rover cannot reach.

Final Tests For The Mars Helicopter

Mars Helicopter
NASA’s Mars Helicopter and its cruise stage undergo functional testing in the airlock inside Kennedy Space Center’s Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility on March 10, 2020. NASA/Cory Huston

Recently, scientists at NASA's Kennedy Space Center carried out the final tests for the Mars Helicopter. The tests were conducted inside the center's Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility. Some of the tests focused on the performance of the helicopter's motor and rotor blades. These components were operated while inside an airlock to see how they would perform in space-like conditions. As noted by NASA, the Mars Helicopter successfully went through the last batch of tests before its scheduled launch.

"Successful testing also was performed on NASA's Mars Helicopter, which will be attached to Perseverance," NASA said in a statement. "The functional test (50 RPM spin) was executed on the stand in the airlock. This marked the last time the rotor blades will be operated until the rover reaches the Martian surface."

Mars 2020 Mission

Mars 2020 Rover
This artist's concept shows the sky-crane maneuver during the descent of NASA's Curiosity rover to the Martian surface. The Mars mission launching in 2020 would leverage the design of this landing system and other aspects of the Mars Science Laboratory architecture. NASA/JPL-Caltech

The Mars Helicopter will be launched alongside the Perseverance rover for NASA's Mars 2020 mission, which is scheduled to take place in July. For the mission, NASA is targeting to explore the Jezero crater on Mars for possible signs of alien life.

The Perseverance rover will carry out its mission by drilling on selected sites within the crater and collected samples. These samples will be brought back to Earth on a follow-up mission in order to be analyzed.

Mars Helicopter's Objectives

As for the Mars Helicopter, it will be used to scout areas that the rover cannot reach. Also, it will serve as a guide for Perseverance by identifying potential points of interest from the sky.

Since the Mars Helicopter will be the first aircraft to fly on the Mars or another planet, it will provide valuable information regarding the possibility of using flying drones or manned aircraft in alien worlds. If the helicopter succeeds in its mission, its concept and design could be used in future missions to Mars and other planets.