The Best Inventions of 2020
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November 19, 2020 8:56 AM EST

The coolest helicopter on earth is actually nowhere near the Earth. It’s nestled in the belly of NASA’s Perseverance rover, set to land on Mars early next year. The little machine—dubbed ­Ingenuity—is equipped with two counter-­rotating blades that spin at 2,400 revolutions per minute. That’s a lot faster than earthly helicopter blades—and it has to be, since it takes a lot of muscle to get any purchase in Mars’ thin air. Ingenuity is a prototype, intended to find an easier way to get from place to place on Mars. It’s a job that rovers do slowly but a helicopter could do speedily and nimbly, climbing to elevations even the best Mars car could not reach. —Jeffrey Kluger

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