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This article was published on September 2, 2021

China’s prototype Mars helicopter looks strikingly familiar…

The skies of Mars may soon receive another visitor

China’s prototype Mars helicopter looks strikingly familiar… Image by: The National Space Science Center (NSSC)

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China is developing a Mars helicopter — and it looks extremely similar to NASA’s Ingenuity.

A prototype of the “Mars surface cruise drone” was unveiled on Wednesday by China’s National Space Science Center (CNNSC). 

The announcement was spotted by SpaceNews’ Andrew Jones, who described the chopper as “more Familiarity than Ingenuity.”


My Mandarin’s a little rusty, but according to Google Translate, the chopper is equipped with a micro spectrometer.

CNNSC didn’t reveal the purpose of the system, but spectroscopy has a rich history on Mars. Spectrometers have previously provided evidence of both flowing liquid water and methane on the planet.

Spectrometers are also attached to two rovers that are currently exploring Mars: China’s Zhurong and NASA’s Perseverance.

Zhurong is equipped with a laser-induced spectrometer that’s investigating the make-up of rocks.

Perseverance, meanwhile, has two of the instruments: an X-ray fluorescence spectrometer that’s analyzing Martian surface materials, and a UV spectrometer that’s searching for signs of past microbial life.


NASA's Perseverance rover has two spectrometers.
Credit: NASA
Perseverance’s spectrometers are fitted on the rover’s robotic arm.

The objectives of China’s new Mars drone, however, remain unclear for now. Whatever they are, the rotorcraft will have big footsteps to follow.

Its lookalike, Ingenuity, has long surpassed NASA’s initial goal of completing five test flights. The chopper has now completed a dozen trips, while capturing stunning images of the red planet en-route.

NASA says the helicopter is paving the way for future rotorcraft missions on Mars. The image of China’s new prototype suggests that may well be the case.

HT — SpaceNews.

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