"We will never really be done with testing the helicopter until we fly at Mars."
NASA is planning to send its tiny Mars Helicopter to the surface of Mars alongside its Mars 2020 rover next summer. And the robot just passed a couple of important milestones.
If all goes according to plan, the Mars Helicopter will launch cradled to the belly of NASA's Mars 2020 rover in July 2020 on top of a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
The Mars Helicopter is a 4 lb flying robot that will be deployed on the Martian surface by the rover to explore the surroundings and other hard-to-reach places that rovers can't get to. It could become the first vehicle in history "to establish the viability of heavier-than-air vehicles flying on another planet," according to a statement.
Flying Over Mars
The spacecraft just underwent a series of tough simulated tests to prepare it for the harsh Martian environment. But there are still plenty of further tests and finishing touches ahead.
In January, the Helicopter successfully completed its first flight test inside a massive 25 foot vacuum chamber.
"We expect to complete our final tests and refinements and deliver the helicopter to the High Bay 1 clean room for integration with the rover sometime this summer," said MiMi Aung, project manager for the Mars Helicopter at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in a statement. "But we will never really be done with testing the helicopter until we fly at Mars."
READ MORE: NASA's Mars Helicopter Whirls Through Tests on Way to 2020 Launch [Space.com]
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