This is a strange story, one that, perhaps, raises some questions. It was shared by a few regular readers of this website, and concern's NASA's "Ingenuity helicopter," a light weight Mars probe that, in effect, is a helicopter drone designed to fly in the very thin Martian atmosphere:
It's the third article, that from Natural News, that raises the question that was on everyone's mind who sent me the article:
NASA just announced they’ve landed a helicopter on Mars. Known as Ingenuity, the helicopter is now “reporting” from the Red Planet and, we are told, is flying around there. (See Space.com article here.)
The obvious problem with this news, of course, is that Mars has virtually no atmosphere according to official NASA figures, which state the Mars atmosphere is 0.6% the pressure of Earth’s atmosphere. Notably, helicopters can’t fly in a near-vacuum, even in the lower Mars gravity (which is 38% of Earth’s gravity, roughly).
So either NASA is completely lying to us about a helicopter on Mars, or Mars actually has a much thicker atmosphere than 0.6%. For a helicopter to be able to fly around on Mars, the atmosphere would have to be thick enough to breathe, assuming the atmospheric chemistry were compatible with whatever being was engaged in respiration.
But if one reads the CBS article, there's a partial explanation:
Ingenuity is essentially a test flight — it's experimenting with flight on another planet for the first time, and has limited capabilities. It weighs only about 4 pounds, but its success will no doubt pave the way for of the red planet.
Mars' thin atmosphere, which is 99% less dense than Earth's, will make it difficult for Ingenuity to achieve enough lift to properly fly. Because of this, it has been designed to be extremely lightweight. It stands just 19 inches tall.
Thehas four large carbon-fiber blades, fashioned into two rotors that span about 4 feet and spin in opposite directions at about 2,400 rpm — significantly faster than typical helicopters on Earth. (Boldface emphasis added)
It's not only the lightweight that I suspect is at the heart of Ingenuity's success, but those rapidly spinning counter-rotating blades. The famous Russian Tupolev-95 "Bear" bomber, Russia's version of the B-52 strategic bomber, and like the B-52, in service continuously since the 1950s, is by most reports capable of a maximum altitude of about 40,000 feet, remarkable, because the Bear bomber is a prop-driven aircraft, utilizing a design of counter-rotating propellers (a design, incidentally, of German origin). Granted, the air at 40,000 feet is still denser than the almost non-existent Martian atmosphere, but nonetheless, that's a remarkable achievement for a propeller driven aircraft, particularly such a large one, and counter-rotation of the propeller blades is one reason it is able to accomplish such an altitude. One may infer that the Tupolev's maximum altitude is probably even higher.
So, unlike those who sent this story to me and who raised a similar question as that of Natural News, I do not have difficulty believing that the little Ingenuity helicopter may be able to fly around Mars. In fact, the little helicopter was apparently successfully tested in Martian-like atmospheric and gravity conditions. (See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mars_Helicopter_Ingenuity where we read "In 2019, preliminary designs of Ingenuity were tested on Earth in simulated Mars atmospheric and gravity conditions. For flight testing, a large vacuum chamber was used to simulate the very low atmospheric pressure of Mars – filled with carbon dioxide to approximately 0.60% of standard atmospheric pressure at sea level on Earth – which is roughly equivalent to a helicopter flying at 34,000 m (112,000 ft) altitude in the atmosphere of Earth. In order to simulate the much reduced gravity field of Mars, 62% of Earth's gravity was offset by a line pulling upwards during flight tests.")
I suspect, rather, that there's a very different story here than that of any NASA conspiracy to obfuscate the level of atmospheric pressure on Mars, and I suspect that story has very much to do with the long-term implications of Ingenuity. As the Wikipedia story indicates, Ingenuity is a "proof-of-concept" experiment, which now appears to have been successful:
Ingenuity is designed to be a technology demonstrator by JPL to assess whether this technology can fly safely, and provide better mapping and guidance that would give future mission controllers more information to help with travel routes planning and hazard avoidance, as well as identifying points of interest for the rover. The helicopter is designed to provide overhead images with approximately ten times the resolution of orbital images, and will provide images of features that may be occluded from the cameras of the Perseverance rover. It is expected that such scouting may enable future rovers to safely drive up to three times as far per sol. (Boldface emphasis added)
In other words, imagine scaling Ingenuity up, to a scale that it could support a variety of cameras and sensors, with "overhead images approximately ten times the resolution of orbital images," and you get the picture, so to speak. Given all the strange stuff - from things that look like fossils to things that look not only machined but like machines - that has been photographed by satellites and surface probes on Mars, it would appear that the real story behind Ingenuity is that NASA wants to get a "closer look" at that strange stuff. In other words, stay tuned... there's more to come.
See you on the flip side...