"The idea of a helicopter flying the skies of another planet is thrilling", NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in the statement.
Engineers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), in California, have been working on the Mars helicopter since 2013, but its late addition to the 2020 Mars rover mission came as a surprise.
The finalised machine weighs in at little under four pounds, and its fuselage is slightly larger than a cricket ball.
The Mars Helicopter weighs in at almost 4 pounds with a fuselage roughly the size of a softball and blades that spin 10 times the rate of an Earth-bound helicopter. Once there, it will use solar cells to charge its batteries and operate a built-in heater to combat frigid nighttime temperatures.
Due to the atmospheric difference between Earth and Mars, the helicopter will be the equivalent of 100,000 feet in the air at home when it is on the ground on Mars.
Mars has only 38 percent of Earth's gravity, but its atmosphere is vanishingly thin compared to Earth's, so the biggest challenge was to design a vehicle that is both light and powerful enough, according to Mimi Aung, the Mars Helicopter project manager at JPL. When it lands on Mars, the helicopter will be attached to the rover's belly pan.
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The launch team on earth will be able to send commands to the helicopter via the rocket - but it is too far away from them to control it directly.
As a technology demonstration, the Mars Helicopter is considered a high-risk, high-reward project.
NASA announced that the rovercraft will hitch a ride on the Mars 2020 rover, which takes off on July 2020. NASA hopes the helicopter will ascend to around 10 feet and hover there for around 30 seconds on its first flight.
NASA sees Mars Helicopter as demonstrating the ability of such vehicles to serve as scouts for future rover missions. That would fill in some gaps between the rover's close-to-the-ground camera perspective and the long-distance view we get from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.
If Mars Helicopter works, it will constitute another space first for NASA, the first flight on another world. The mission is predicted to reach Mars in February 2021.
The rover will conduct geological assessments of its landing site on Mars, determine the habitability of the environment, search for signs of ancient Martian life, and assess natural resources and hazards for future human explorers.