April 2010 testing for a radar that will serve during the next landing on Mars used prescribed descent paths flown by a helicopter carrying an engineering test model of the landing radar for NASA's Mars Science Laboratory.
The descents at different angles and from different heights simulated paths associated with specific candidate landing sites for the mission. The Mars Science Laboratory mission, managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., for the NASA Science Mission Directorate, Washington, is in assembly and testing for launch in autumn 2011 and delivering a rover named Curiosity to Mars in summer 2012.
Wolfe Air Aviation, of Pasadena, Calif., provided the helicopter and flight services for the testing by a team of JPL engineers in flights near Lancaster, Calif., and other locations. This image from April 9, 2010, shows the test radar affixed to a gimbal mounting at the front of the helicopter, which is more often used for aerial photography.