NASA concluded initial flight testing of a rotary aircraft designed to fly above the red planet's surface. The four-pound Mars Helicopter underwent temperature testing and other trials to obtain certification to operate on the red planet, the agency said Thursday.
MiMi Aung, project manager for the Mars Helicopter at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, led a team testing the helicopter in a 7.62-meter-wide space simulator. The team replaced all other gases from the cylindrical simulator with carbon dioxide to mimic the atmosphere on Mars.
"Gearing up for that first flight on Mars, we have logged over 75 minutes of flying time with an engineering model, which was a close approximation of our helicopter," Aung said.
The helicopter will undergo more tests of up to 90 seconds each after a few months. NASA plans to deploy the helicopter on the red planet in February 2021 as part of the Mars 2020 mission.