Would Aeroplanes or Helicopters work on our Moon?

In general , I think , in Aeroplane Case:

(1) Air is required for Aeroplanes to float : Would Moon have enough air?

(2) High speed is required for take-off : Would this high take-off speed actually be more than the escape velocity?

In Helicopter Case:

(1) The fans rotate at high speed which raise the vehicle because of air. Does Moon have enough air?

(2) The rear fans enable Control to maintain Direction. Will Moon have enough air to allow this Control?

I will not include hover-crafts here!

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ one of the main driver in choosing a vehicle design is the mission for which it's meant for. Then, physical and technical constraints come into play. But if you need fix-point flights, you need helicopter or drone, or quad-copter or whatever is able to keep flying with no relative velocity. in space applications, rockets of other thruster that don't need a medium to fly in may be used: they provide the required thrust expelling a medium, initially stored in them $\endgroup$
    – basics
    Commented Nov 15, 2022 at 11:48
  • $\begingroup$ In space , rockets expel the medium stored. That is specifically why I am talking about a Different Class of vehicles ( aeroplanes & helicopters ) which work in slightly Different ways. I am aware of rockets which went to Moon & came back. I am aware of astronauts bouncing on the Moon due to low gravity. That was why I wanted to know about flight in such low gravity & low atmosphere. @basics $\endgroup$
    – Prem
    Commented Nov 15, 2022 at 12:09
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ For the purposes of any type of aircraft (and almost all other intents and purposes) the surface of the Moon has no atmosphere. $\endgroup$
    – notovny
    Commented Nov 15, 2022 at 12:13
  • $\begingroup$ I think that is the best answer I am going to get , @notovny , thanks ! $\endgroup$
    – Prem
    Commented Nov 15, 2022 at 12:15

3 Answers 3


The most general equation to calculate the lift $L$ generated by an aerodynamic shape is:

$$L=\frac12 \rho V^2 S C_l,$$

where $\rho$ is the density of the fluid, $V$ the speed of flight, $S$ a reference surface used to make comparisons (wing area for an airplane, disk area for a helicopter) and $C_l$ the lift coefficient.

According to NASA "the density of the atmosphere at the moon's surface is comparable to the density of the outermost fringes of Earth's atmosphere where the International Space Station orbits".

So $\rho$ is basically null in the previous equation and no aerodynamic forces can be generated on the moon (or at the height of the ISS) and no helicopter or airplane as we know them on earth could fly on the moon. But luckily Mars does have an atmosphere and there is it possible to fly :)

  • $\begingroup$ Note that the atmosphere does exert aerodynamic force on the ISS, in the form of drag. The ISS’s orbit decays due to this atmospheric interaction, and its resupply craft must also use their fuel to give the space station an altitude boost. However, the Bernoulli equation is valid in the continuum limit, when the aerodynamic system is much larger the the mean free path between collisions for the particles which make up the fluid. I don’t know the mean free path in Earth’s exosphere, but I bet it’s a lot longer than the ISS. $\endgroup$
    – rob
    Commented Dec 28, 2022 at 4:17
  • $\begingroup$ @rob: yep but in negligeble quantity, or at least not enough to sustain flight in a earth way $\endgroup$
    – sophit
    Commented Dec 28, 2022 at 4:22

I came across 2 View Points :

(1) Not Possible : https://public.nrao.edu/ask/can-planes-and-helicopters-fly-to-the-moon/

Question:  I was wondering  
if you can somehow get a helicopter and an airplane into space  
and lets say put them on the moon,  
is there any way the helicopter and plane could take flight?  — Calvin  

Answer:  Airplanes and helicopters using the resistance of the Earth’s  
atmosphere (mostly nitrogen gas) to provide “lift”,  
which allows them to fly.  Since both would have to exit  
the Earth’s atmosphere to get to the Moon,  
neither would be able to fly to the Moon.  

(2) Possible : https://space.stackexchange.com/questions/4701/could-you-fly-on-the-moon-in-earths-atmospheric-pressure-by-flapping-wearable

So with the correct design it seems like you have 1.1 times the required force available  
it at least implies you would be able to hover on the spot  

With that calculation, I think a machine with wings could easily generate the necessary forces.
But this is inside a Dome containing Air which will be missing outside the Dome according to Current Question. We must have the Critical Component of air or atmosphere to generate the drag or lift or buoyancy or resistance.
Hence I think , there is no way for flight to work on the Moon.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Your "possible" reference is to a hypothetical dome that contains air. I believe the OP was asking about flight on the Moon outside of any dome. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 15, 2022 at 13:28
  • $\begingroup$ Yes , without the "Dome" containing Air , flight will not work on Moon , @DavidHammen , I will update the Answer to highlight that Point ! $\endgroup$
    – Prem
    Commented Nov 15, 2022 at 14:21

While helicopters would work somewhere like Mars where there is a slight atmosphere, there is no air for either a helicopter or airplane to work on the Moon. Both need the air to supply lift. The helicopters use their rotors and air planes use both their propellers and wings.

Now, a jet with both fuel and a oxygen supply, could work on the moon. It would be a basic rocket...


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