China develops Prototype Miniature Helicopter for Mars missions

China has developed a prototype miniature helicopter for surveillance work on future Mars missions, in keeping with its area science company, following the historic touchdown of a robotic rover on the Red Planet a couple of months in the past, reported Reuters.

According to a photograph posted on the website of China’s National Space Science Center on Wednesday, the prototype is similar in appearance to the robotic helicopter Ingenuity, developed by NASA for its Perseverance mission this year. The agency said the helicopter could be a tool for China’s follow-up exploration on Mars, but it did not disclose further details. China landed a Mars rover in May in its first-ever mission to the planet, becoming the second country after the United States to do so. NASA’s most advanced rover, Perseverance, landed on the planet in February. From the NASA rover, Ingenuity made its inaugural flight in April, rising about 3 metres (10 feet) above the surface, in humankind’s first successful deployment of a powered aircraft in a world other than Earth. The challenge to the ingenuity of 1.8 kg (4 lb) is the planet’s thin atmosphere, which is only 1 percent denser than Earth’s. NASA engineers equipped the Ingenuity with rotor blades that are larger – 1.2 m (4 ft) from tip to tip – and faster than would be needed on Earth for an aircraft of its size to compensate for the lack of aerodynamic lift.

According to the picture, like the Ingenuity, the Chinese prototype has two rotor blades, a sensor and camera base, and four slim legs, but there is no solar panel at the top. Ingenuity has made more than 10 outings since April, covering a total distance of more than 2km (1.2 miles) with an overall flight time of about 20 minutes. China is planning its first crewed mission to Mars in 2033.