Someone at China’s National Space Science Centre (CNSSC) has been copying someone else’s homework, by the look of things. The country’s agency unveiled a prototype of the helicopter the country intends to send to Mars at some unspecified point in the future and it looks… well, it looks like we’ve seen it before.
How much Ingenuity did that take, China?
Which makes a weird kind of sense, really. You don’t want to go making space technology unique so that folks don’t accuse you of copying. You want an idea that has already proven to work because it’s hard enough to ensure your gear’s going to keep working when it’s almost 400 million kilometres away.
China’s vehicle is being called a “Mars cruise drone”, because changing the name is all you really need to do, and it’ll be fitted with a spectrometer when it — or something quite like it — is sent off to the red planet. The China National Space Science Centre doesn’t go into much detail about what it’ll be used for but the Zhurong rover, currently trundling around on Mars, is also carting around a spectrometer. We can assume the mission will be similar, just… airborne.
It’ll have to go quite some way to eclipse the performance of NASA’s Ingenuity — the little helicopter has performed far better than anyone was expecting it to, which is likely what has made the design so attractive. The potential for speedier exploration of Mars has to be a massive drawcard for China, which has… serious space ambitions.