NASA has announced that engineers have attached the Mars Helicopter to the belly of the Mars 2020 rover. The Mars Helicopter will be the first aircraft to fly on another planet. The helicopter was attached to the rover in the High Bay 1 cleanroom.
Mars Helicopter is a twin-rotor, solar-powered helicopter and it was connected along with the Mars Helicopter Delivery system, to a plate on the rover’s belly. The helicopter and delivery system is covered with a shield to protect it from debris during entry, descent, and landing.
The helicopter will remain encapsulated after landing until deployed onto the surface of Mars after a suitable area to conduct the test flights is found at Jezero Crater. The Mars Helicopter is a high-risk, high-reward tech demonstration. If the helicopter is unable to fly on Mars, the science-gathering missions isn’t impacted.
If the helicopter is able to fly, future Mars missions might use flying vehicles to extend their explorations. The challenge for the helicopter is that Mars has an extremely thin environment, and scientists aren’t sure that a helicopter can fly.
Mars Helicopter and the Mars 2020 Rover will launch from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket in July of 2020. Mars 2020 Rover is expected to land at Jezero Crater on February 18, 2021. JPL will manage the Mars 2020 rover and Mars Helicopter for NASA. The Mars Helicopter Delivery system was provided by Lockheed Martin Space. NASA is allowing people to register to send their name to Mars with the mission through September 30, 2019.