NASA is just over a year from launching the March 2020 rover, and all systems are go for the flying passenger of the rover. After complete your flight test Earlier this year, the crew of the Mars Helicopter (MHS) helicopter is in the preparation phase and is expected to join the rover this summer. If it works as expected, the MHS will be the first flying machine on another planet.
In January, the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory team used an atmospheric chamber and a "gravity unloading system" to show that the probe could actually fly in conditions similar to those of Mars. This was never a certainty when the project started. Mars has only 40% of Earth's gravity, but its atmosphere is 1% less dense. It takes a very light and efficient helicopter to have the slightest hope of taking off. The MHS weighs only 4 pounds on Earth, equivalent to 1.6 pounds on Mars.
After this test, the MHS returned to the Lockheed Martin space in Denver. Since their arrival, engineers have tested the helicopter with the Mars Helicopter Delivery System that will hold it against the underside of the vehicle until its deployment. In particular, Lockheed Martin has verified that the helicopter would fit neatly into the mooring support and would not be damaged by vibration during launch or landing. Last month, the MHS returned to the JPL, where the team installed a new solar panel and performed additional tests on the vehicle's rotor blades to ensure that the 1,500 pieces of carbon fiber , aluminum, silicon, copper and airgel still work properly.
JPL hopes to have finished testing this summer. After that, he will head to the High Bay Clean Room 1 to be integrated into the March 2020 rover. The next time the rover will be free, he will be on Mars in February 2021. The launch is scheduled for July 2020 aboard the ULA Atlas V. rocket
NASA is careful to point out that the messaging system is only a technology demonstrator. It is possible that the vehicle does not work very well, but there are no essential instruments on board. The helicopter only has a pair of cameras capable of taking aerial shots. Future missions could add useful scientific modules to aerial probes, but this one could still help the Earth team to drive the rover around an obstacle and to locate interesting geological formations.