NASA has announced that it will be sending a helicopter to Mars in just over two years.
If successful, this Mars explorer with a roughly ball-sized body would be the first on another planet.
NASA hopes to bring the Mars 2020 prototype to Mars with the agency's rover looking for signs of past life on the Red Planet.
"After the Wright Brothers proved 117 years ago that powered, sustained and controlled flight was possible here on Earth, another group of American pioneers could prove that this is possible in another world," said Thomas Zurbuch, NASA Mission Director Associate Administrator, in a statement.
NASA Administrator Jim Briddenstine
tweeted the announcement Friday just as an upgraded SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched into space.
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) engineers in California have been working on the Mars helicopter since 2013, with the late completion of the Mars rover mission in 2020 a surprise. Two years in the space exploration world are almost like one Last-minute addition before an ambitious start to the Red Planet.
After Rover la Launched in 2021 on the Red Planet, NASA scientists will use the spacecraft's cameras to scan the Martian terrain and find a suitable, flat location to drop the tiny helicopter can.
Once the helicopter is deployed, the scientists will order him to take off. After that, however, the helicopter will be self-contained and fly autonomously.
"We have no pilot and the Earth will be several light minutes away, so there is no way to control this mission in real time," Mimi Aung, the Mars Helicopter Project Manager at JPL, said in the statement.
"Instead, we have an autonomous ability that can be received and interpret the commands from the ground and then fly autonomously."
NASA will test the drone for 30 days to see them in an environment unlike Earth works. The Martian atmosphere is pretty thin – just 1 percent off the Earth – so flying in such low air density is a challenge.
If the Light, 4-pound craft works, future exploration missions could be similar, albeit more powerful, helicopters that can survey unexplored, foreign lands Test the boat up to five times over a 30-day period.
The ability to clearly see what lies behind the next hill is crucial for future explorers, "said Zurbuchen.