# Thread: What sort of wingspan would you need to fly on mars?

1. ## What sort of wingspan would you need to fly on mars?

I'm sure you all heard about the guy who claimed that there was clearly insectoid life on mars. Complete with features common to terrestrial insects, including wings.

It got me thinking. Assuming that insect life could indeed survive on mars for reasons, they'd have a lot less atmosphere to push against. How big would their wings have to be in order to make flight a thing that could happen?

2. ## Re: What sort of wingspan would you need to fly on mars?

This is a somewhat tricky question. The trivial answer would be to point out that lift scales linearly with air density and wing surface area, so because the gravity on mars is a third of that on earth, and atmospheric pressure is only 0.00628 that of earth, the surface area of the wings would have to be 53 times as big (if we assume both length and width of the wings increases at the same rate, that means the wings would be about 7.5 times longer than on earth insects). However, lift is also a function of the speed at which the wing is moving, and the lower air density on mars reduces drag on the wing, making it easier to move the wings way quicker.

Unfortunately, I'm not an expert on insect physiology, so I haven't got a clue how much faster an insect could beat their wings under martian conditions.

3. ## Re: What sort of wingspan would you need to fly on mars?

Originally Posted by Anymage
I'm sure you all heard about the guy who claimed that there was clearly insectoid life on mars. Complete with features common to terrestrial insects, including wings.

It got me thinking. Assuming that insect life could indeed survive on mars for reasons, they'd have a lot less atmosphere to push against. How big would their wings have to be in order to make flight a thing that could happen?
Hot take: Atmospheric density is so low that they would use their wings as lungs. Beating them would run oxygen across the membranes, and it increases surface membranes to have giant wings.

4. ## Re: What sort of wingspan would you need to fly on mars?

Originally Posted by Tvtyrant
Hot take: Atmospheric density is so low that they would use their wings as lungs. Beating them would run oxygen across the membranes, and it increases surface membranes to have giant wings.
Nice idea!

As for increased flapping speed, air is already pretty thin, so one of the key limiting factors is the inertia of the wings themselves and reaction time of muscles. Still, size scaling favors small insects in the easy flying departament (typical square/cube situation).

There is an important fact though that terrestrial insects have still a significant reserve in wing size - just look at bumblebee in comparison to the others. For quite a long time scientist could not figure out, how it actually flies with wings this small (and easily measured flapping frequency).

5. ## Re: What sort of wingspan would you need to fly on mars?

Depends when we are talking about.

Mars had more atmosphere in the past.

6. ## Re: What sort of wingspan would you need to fly on mars?

Originally Posted by Radar
There is an important fact though that terrestrial insects have still a significant reserve in wing size - just look at bumblebee in comparison to the others. For quite a long time scientist could not figure out, how it actually flies with wings this small (and easily measured flapping frequency).
I've heard tell that this was based on inaccurate reporting.

Probably a bit of an urban legend, but apparently there was a mixed discipline conference and the aeronautical engineers put on a fairly dry presentation of how bumblebees couldn't fly. The non-scientific people left during the intermission and missed the second part where the engineers and biologists explained how the critter overcomes this problem and actually does fly.

7. ## Re: What sort of wingspan would you need to fly on mars?

Originally Posted by Brother Oni
I've heard tell that this was based on inaccurate reporting.

Probably a bit of an urban legend, but apparently there was a mixed discipline conference and the aeronautical engineers put on a fairly dry presentation of how bumblebees couldn't fly. The non-scientific people left during the intermission and missed the second part where the engineers and biologists explained how the critter overcomes this problem and actually does fly.
Here's the Snopes take: Did scientists once prove that bumblebees can't fly?

The short version is we don't know exactly where this came from. One origin is a back-of-the-napkin calculation over dinner, and the other was a professor critiquing his subordinate's work.

8. ## Re: What sort of wingspan would you need to fly on mars?

Originally Posted by Brother Oni
I've heard tell that this was based on inaccurate reporting.
Yeah,this is an inaccurate reporting.

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