Scientists working on NASA's Mars helicopter project are building the current 4-pound vehicle being launched on the red planet with the Mars 2020 rover, according to engadget.com
But they can not simply tie the helicopter in the belly of their biggest mate and shut it down – they first have to prove they can actually fly in Martian conditions. That's why, at the end of January, the team replicated the much thinner atmosphere of our neighboring planet in JPL's Space Simulator to ensure the helicopter can take off. Spoiler Alert: They were able to conduct two test flights under Mars conditions on different days.
Because the Martian atmosphere is only about one percent of the earth's density, researchers would have to conduct their flight tests at an altitude of 100,000 feet if they did not trust the simulator. The 25-foot wide vacuum cylinder was the very best choice, especially since the agency has used it to test machines destined for the red planet anyway. In fact, that's where the Curiosity team tested the rover here on Earth.
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