China’s Mars Helicopter to Support Future Rover Exploration

The first ever powered flight by an aircraft on another planetary took place in April when NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter, delivered to the Red Planet along with Perseverance rover, but the idea has already taken off elsewhere.

Earlier this month a prototype “Mars surface cruise drone system” developed by a team led by Bian Chunjiang at China’s National Space Science Center (NSSC) in Beijing gained approval for further development.

Like Ingenuity, which was intended purely as a technology demonstration, it uses two sets of blades on a single rotor mast to provide lift for vertical take-offs and landings in the very thin Martian atmosphere, which is around 1% the density of Earth’s.

The team did consider a fixed wing approach, which other space-related research institutes in China have been…

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