NASA has docked its Mars Helicopter to the Mars 2020 rover for the upcoming exploration mission on the red planet. Engineers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory attached the twin-rotor, solar-powered helicopter to the rover's belly section, the space agency said Wednesday.
The rover features a cover designed to protect Mars Helicopter from debris. The helicopter will only undock and deploy once the rover reaches a flight-suitable area within Mars' Jezero Crater. The space agency would deploy a second wave of Mars Helicopters for future missions if the initial unit's demonstration concludes successfully.
"Our job is to prove that autonomous, controlled flight can be executed in the extremely thin Martian atmosphere," said MiMi Aung, Mars Helicopter project manager at JPL.
NASA will launch the Mars 2020 rover July next year on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket.