A recent press release informs that NASA scientists will send the first airplane on Mars by the year 2024. The project is called the Preliminary Research Aerodynamic Design to Land on Mars (Prandtl-m) and it will be developed with the help of college students.
Among the many experiments that NASA scientists are now developing is also the Prandtl-m project which presupposes the flight of the first airplane into space. The small drone will be sent on Mars to better study the surface of the Red Planet.
According to the first descriptions that scientists have provided, the airplane will be made out of light materials, such as, fiber glass and carbon fiber. These materials have been selected because the drone has to be carried by a satellite on Mars.
The project stemming out of the brainstorm session of various college students will weigh only 1.2kg and will be just 61 cm large. Developers plan to make the wings foldable in the future, so that it can fit on the CubeSat mini satellite.
Scientists have further stated that the airplane will be transported to Mars by a rover, where it will gently glide on the surface of the Red Planet. As the drone will descend into Mars’ atmosphere, researchers will use every opportunity to take as many close-up pictures as possible to the celestial body.
The images that the drone can take have a very good quality. The Prandtl-m airplane will feature high-definition cameras, so ground operators can extract as much information as possible from these images. Astronomers hope the 2024 mission will enable them to further map Mars’ surface, even across those areas that have remained unstudied by the rover, so far.
As a matter of fact, the drone can investigate the Mars regions that the Curiosity rover was not able to cross because the land was too marsh. However, the airplane can only fly for 10 minutes, so scientists will have to carefully study its trajectory so Prandtl-m would not get stuck either.
The main goal of the current mission that NASA is developing is basically the same: new technological means are constantly deployed for the thorough analysis of the Red Planet. NASA will use all this data to prepare the first landing of the man on Mars in the year 2030.
Image source: www.nasa.gov
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