The Mars 2020 rover – accompanied by its helicopter companion – is due to launch in July of that year and arrive on the red planet in February 2021. Nasa is sending a helicopter to Mars, in the first test of a heavier-than-air aircraft on another planet. The Mars Helicopter will be bundled with the US space agency’s Mars rover when it launches in 2020. Its design team spent more than four years shrinking a working helicopter to ‘the size of a softball’ and cutting its weight to 1.8kg (4lbs). It is specifically designed to fly in the atmosphere of Mars, which is 100 times thinner than Earth’s. The helicopter’s two blades will spin at close to 3,000 revolutions a minute, which Nasa says is about 10 times faster than a standard helicopter on Earth.