The Perseverance rover landed on Mars recently. A star payload is a helicopter. The designers have shrewdly declared that 90% of their test objectives will be met if the helicopter actually takes off. Landing is the hard part.
Anyhow, a little-known commercial funder of this little helicopter is Ben & Jerry Ice cream. Yes, the famous ice cream vendor plans to make Mars flavored ice cream from ice on Mars. The helicopter will be used to aid in sample return of some ice for research at the secret Ben & Jerry lab at JPL. They already have tested indoor helicopter hover simulations in aiding the sample return as well as helicopter delivery of samples. This is also seen as a proof of concept for future helicopter delivery of ice cream to EVA crewmembers (no landing required for delivery – the helicopter will just hover over the astronaut, and the astronaut will pluck the delicious payload from the helicopter delivery hook). Also in work is an interface between the ice cream packet and the space suit helmet so the astronauts can savor the delicious Ben & Jerry Mars ice cream while on EVA.
The helicopter will also scout potential Ben & Jerry store locations for rover drive through pickup. Scooping ice cream at these stores will be the work of another groundbreaking partnership between the Canadian Space Agency (the provider of the Space Shuttle and Space Station robotic arms) and Ben & Jerry/JPL. Testing is underway of a petite arm wielding a scoop at the secret Ben & Jerry lab. There has been some issue with the wrist joint having enough strength in yaw, but Ben & Jerry/JPL has appointed a blue-ribbon tiger team to assess the problem and hope to have a solution by 2026.
Be glad folks, your tax dollars are at work developing helicopters on Mars, augmented by Ben & Jerry. Pre-order now for your sample of Ben & Jerry Mars Ice Cream. •