Something to look forward to: NASA’s latest explorer rover is set to make contact with Mars’ surface next month, on February 18. It’s an important step for the space agency, and not just due to the rover itself: its cargo is equally important. The Perseverance rover is carrying the first-ever “Mars Helicopter,” aptly known as Ingenuity.
Ingenuity is a small, lightweight helicopter with two rotors, each made from durable carbon fiber. The rotors will spin in opposing directions, at speeds of “around 2,400 rpm,” which is “many times” faster than what you’d see on any passenger helicopter on Earth.
So, why are those speeds necessary, and why is Ingenuity so light? According to NASA, Mars’ extremely thin atmosphere is to blame. With much less usable air than Earth, any flying vehicle attempting to fly on the Red Planet would need considerably faster rotors to generate enough lift to get off the ground.