Something to look forward to: NASA’s latest explorer Rover is set to make contact with the surface of Mars on February 18 next month. This is an important step for the space agency, and not only because of the rover: its cargo is equally important. The Perseverance Rover is carrying a “Mars Helicopter” for the first time, known as a preterm.
The Ingenuity is a small, light helicopter with two rotors, each made of durable carbon fiber. The rotor will spin in opposite directions at a speed of “approximately 2,400 rpm”, which is “many times” faster than any passenger helicopter on Earth.
So, why are those speeds necessary, and why is Ingenuity so light? According to NASA, the extremely thin atmosphere of Mars is to blame. With a much less usable wind than the Earth, any flying vehicle attempting to fly on the Red Planet would require significantly faster rotors to generate enough lift to get off the ground.
If the mission is successful, it could revolutionize the way scientists explore Mars. Until now, they had to rely on slow-rolling, ground-based rovers to navigate, but if Ingenuity proved capable of understanding the harsh environment of Mars, the technology could be much more common. Perhaps a more sophisticated design can be made at a later date?
We wish NASA engineers, and Ingenuity, all the best in their efforts. Whether it lands or flies successfully or not, you can be certain that we will cover Ingenuity’s landing here, so stay tuned on 18 February.