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NASA adds a drone to its 2020 Mars rover

Mars Helicopter
An artist’s conception shows the Mars Helicopter. (NASA / JPL-Caltech Illustration)

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine has given the thumbs-up to putting a helicopter on Mars.

The Mars Helicopter, which is actually more of an autonomous drone, will be packed into the belly pan of a Red Planet rover that’s due for launch in 2020.

For months, mission planners and scientists have been debating whether it’d be worth flying the 4-pound rotorcraft for a 30-day test campaign.

Adding the drone to the rover potentially takes away from the space and time that can be devoted to other scientific experiments. But in today’s announcement, Bridenstine said the helicopter would build on NASA’s “proud history of firsts.”

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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