China shows off its Mars cruise drone prototype

China has shown off the prototype of its “Mars cruise drone” designed for surveillance work on future Mars missions, following the historic landing of a robotic rover on the Red Planet a few months ago.

The prototype of the miniature helicopter successfully passed the final acceptance, China’s National Space Science Center (CNNSC) announced on Wednesday. In the images shared by the science center, the prototype looks similar in appearance to NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter, developed for its Perseverance mission this year.

The Chinese prototype sports two rotor blades, a sensor-and-camera base, and four thin legs, but there is no solar panel at the top like Ingenuity.

The mars cruise drone was one of the three projects in the NSSC technology cultivation program. This helicopter could be considered as a tool for Chinese exploration of Mars in the future, but the agency did not give details on its missions.

China has extensive plans for the exploration of the Red planet. The country managed to successfully land the Zhurong Mars rover in its first-ever mission to the planet. It became the world’s second nation to deploy a vehicle on the surface of Mars when a solar-powered rover began exploration for potential evidence of life and joined NASA’s Curiosity and Perseverance rovers that are already trekking around the surface of the planet.

Meanwhile, NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter has been a massive success. The aircraft made its inaugural flight in April, rising about 3 meters (10 feet) above the surface.

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