The Mars Helicopter will be included in the Mars 2020 Rover mission which was announced on May 11.
Once landed, the autonomous flying rover will undergo a 30-day test cycle to understand the viability of flying a heavier-than-air craft across the Martian terrain.
“NASA has a proud history of firsts,” NASA’s administrator, Jim Bridenstine, said in a statement. “The idea of a helicopter flying the skies of another planet is thrilling. The Mars Helicopter holds much promise for our future science, discovery and exploration missions to Mars.”
The small rotorcraft weighs just 4 pounds and is about the size of a softball. The craft is powered by batteries that will be recharged by onboard solar cells and has self-heating mechanisms to help it handle Mars nights.
The Mars Helicopter was developed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in 2013.
The Mars 2020 Rover mission includes a drill-equipped lander that can drill into the Martian crust to look for “signs of habitable conditions on Mars in the ancient past” and “searching for signs of past microbial life.”
The mission will also test a method for producing oxygen from the Martian atmosphere, identifying available resources, understanding the weather and other characteristics that will affect manned missions to the red planet.