When United States (US) space agency NASA sends its rover to Mars next year, there will be a new kind of vehicle on board-a mini helicopter that will be used to explore Martian skies for the first time ever.
So far, missions to Mars have only included a rover (a small vehicle that drives itself) which has been used to explore the surface of the planet. Other missions have orbited (gone around) the planet, observing it from space. This will be the first time we will get a view of the planet from just above its surface.
NASA’s mission is expected to take off in July and land on the Red Planet in February 2021. The helicopter it will carry is a very small one-just 1.8 kilograms in all! With a body the size of a softball, the helicopter will have a solar panel and re-chargeable batteries. Using a helicopter could help Mars missions explore areas that cannot be reached by a rover.
For the first mission, the helicopter’s mission is very simple-to take pictures of Mars using the on-board camera. So we have some pretty pictures of Mars to look forward to in a few years!