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Space & Astronomy

Prototype airplane could one day fly on Mars

By T.K. Randall
August 19, 2016 · Comment icon 5 comments

An aircraft like this could be ideal for exploring large areas on Mars. Image Credit: NASA
Students in the US have conducted a successful test flight of a small remotely piloted glider aircraft.
Developed by students from several different institutions as part of a project known as Preliminary Research Aerodynamic Design to Land on Mars (Prandtl-M), the aircraft has been designed to fly in the Martian atmosphere and could even go there as part of a future mission.

"The first successful flights felt like a huge relief," said Irvine Valley College mechanical engineering student John Bodylski. "At first, I didn't believe it and had to rewatch the footage from the flight."

The work is being conducted as part of a NASA endeavour which gives community college students the opportunity to participate in the development and testing of its various new projects.
If this one proves successful then an aircraft like this one could end up being used on Mars to fly over large areas and collect as much data as possible before sending its findings back to Earth.

"What we like about small prototypes and this student program is this is real research, real cutting edge technology development," said program manager Dave Berger.

"They can work on all the major areas of aerospace engineering, such as controls, aerodynamics, structures and instrumentation encapsulated in one project. The program is small enough that we can design and fabricate very fast and we can try something that no one has ever done before."

Source: Aerospace Technology | Comments (5)

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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by Merc14 8 years ago
Not sure how testing this in Earth's atmosphere proves it will work in Mars' atmosphere as the atmosphere on Mars is far less dense than on earth (6.1 mb vs. 1,013.25 mb) and comprised of different levels of various gases.
Comment icon #2 Posted by Parsec 8 years ago
Agreed. On the other hand we have to take into account the different gravity as well, possibly that partly compensates. Adding to your observation, let's don't forget that one of the main limitations today for civil and professional drone use (I mean not military) is the time flight, around 20 minutes on average. And you don't have sockets where you can plug and recharge on Mars.   Still, what matters to me is more the educational side of the program and the fact that it exposes young minds to "the real stuff" and get them involved in today/tomorrow tech. I reckon it can be very inspirational... [More]
Comment icon #3 Posted by Merc14 8 years ago
Excellent point and this does motivate kids to seek careers in science and engineering.
Comment icon #4 Posted by eddword 8 years ago
I have often thought about a better way to traverse the martian landscape, As apposed to ground exploration , and I always came up with some kind of aerial type of vehicle... Say, like a solar powered blimp or even a rotor powered type of drone. But we would definitely have to have something that could take off, hover or even land with ease.Much more ground could be covered that way and in accessible areas could be reached. But one thing is for sure it would be wise to send a fleet of small aerial observers instead of just one.They could even be dispatched from a mother ship in orbit in the up... [More]
Comment icon #5 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf 7 years ago
Potential Mars Airplane Resumes Flight  

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