Story at a glance
- China’s National Space Science Center on Wednesday revealed a prototype of a Mars surface cruise drone.
- The small vehicle could eventually be used for future Chinese Mars missions.
- China successfully carried out its first mission to Mars in May.
China’s space agency is developing a drone that could one day take flight on Mars that looks similar to NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter.
China’s National Space Science Center on Wednesday revealed a prototype of a Mars surface cruise drone that was approved under a technology cultivation program promoted by the agency.
The small prototype is equipped with two large rotor blades, sensors, a camera and four legs.
The vehicle could eventually be used for future Chinese Mars missions, but the space agency did not release additional details.
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China in May successfully carried out its first mission to Mars. The country landed its Tianwen-1 rover on the Red Planet, becoming the second nation in the world to deploy a vehicle on the planet’s surface.
But the U.S. is a few steps ahead. NASA’s Ingenuity carried out the first-ever powered flight on Mars earlier this year and surpassed expectations by flying 12 separate times. It also helped the rover Perseverance in its mission by scouting the martian planet’s terrain from the air.
Getting the helicopter off the ground is challenging as Mars’ atmosphere is about 1 percent the density of Earth at its surface. Engineers used ultralight materials and 4-foot propellers that spin ultra fast to get the vehicle in the air.
The success also opens the door to another dimension of planetary exploration, using powered flight to study the mysteries of Mars and other planets.
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