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space stuff

NASA's next mission might be sending a helicopter to Mars

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory hopes to send a remote-controlled helicopter to Mars. The camera-equipped helicopter could triple the distance that Mars rovers travel in a Martian day and would "pinpoint interesting targets for study," according to NASA.

Flying the helicopter over Mars won't be easy, though — the planet's atmosphere has low density, and the copter will need to maintain stable flight on its own. But the scientists have been developing the Mars helicopter for month, and they've already made a full-scale prototype.

The scientists are testing the prototype in a vacuum chamber with Martian conditions to see what needs to be improved before it goes into flight. They also have to make sure it has a functional landing system before they can send it to Mars. Check out the JPL roboticists' explanation of how the helicopter will do what Martian rovers can't in the video below. —Meghan DeMaria