What does it take to build a helicopter to fly on Mars?
For starters, you can forget the remote control. Mars is more than 30 million miles away on a good day, so the time delay in sending and receiving signals means you couldn’t fly the spacecraft with a joystick — you have to send waypoints in advance from here on Earth and hope for the best.
It also needs to charge itself. And it has to be able to take off in the incredibly thin Martian atmosphere (roughly 100 times thinner than Earth’s atmosphere), meaning the entire helicopter — including solar panel, batteries, computers, rotors and landing gear — has to weigh less than 4 pounds. And how do you test it in a simulated Martian environment? Well, you’re going to have to design that process from scratch as well.
It might sound like an impossible task, but that’s