Friday, March 31, 2023

NASA scientist develops motorless sailplane to explore Mars for days

A NASA engineer in partnership with the University of Arizona has developed a motorless airplane that can fly over Mars for several days at a time. Called a ‘sailplane’, the new instrument will use only air for propulsion and will help in the detailed study of the Martian atmosphere. According to Alexandre Kling, a research scientist at NASA’s Mars Climate Modeling Center, the plane weighs about 2 kilograms and has a wingspan of about 11 feet.

the idea behind the plane

While rovers and orbiters go a long way in gathering imagery and first-hand data, the Red Planet has an essential component that interests most planetary scientists. The idea behind developing this plane is to probe the planetary boundary layer a few kilometers above the surface. “This is where all the exchanges between the surface and the atmosphere take place,” Kling said in a statement. “This is where the dust is picked up and sent into the atmosphere, where the trace gases mix, where there is a large-scale modulation of winds by mountain-valley flows. And we don’t have a lot of data about that.” Is.”

Nasa Scientist Develops Motorless Sailplane To Explore Mars For Days

(Prototype of a sailplane: Image: Emily Dieckmann / College of Engineering / University of Arizona)

Another reason why this sailplane has proved to be very helpful in the exploration of Mars is its very long operating time. The Ingenuity helicopter sent to Mars last year with the Perseverance rover can fly for only three minutes at a time using solar power, and reaches an altitude of just 12 meters (39 feet). Sailplanes, on the other hand, will fly over the Martian skies for days, allowing them to reach far beyond ingenuity and visit new places.

working of sailplane

These sailplanes, which use only air for propulsion, are equipped with flight, temperature and gas sensors as well as cameras. In a paper published in the journal Aerospace, the team details several methods through which it plans to launch, sustain and land planes on Mars. Engineers plan to send the planes as a secondary payload on a larger Mars mission.

For deployment, the team proposes packaging the planes into CubeSats and once these CubeSats are deployed, the planes will unfold like origami or inflate to their full size. Another approach is to deploy planes with balloons that will slow down the descent of the sailplanes and allow them to fly during optimal wind conditions. The same balloons can also be used to dock planes, enabling them to fly again for multiple flights.

Nasa Scientist Develops Motorless Sailplane To Explore Mars For Days

(Sailplane during a test launch with a balloon; Image: Emily Dieckman / College of Engineering / University of Arizona)

While the concept has yet to be adopted by NASA, sailplane developers are preparing to test the planes at 15,000 feet above sea level, where Earth’s atmosphere is thinner and flight conditions are similar to those of Mars. “We can use Earth as a laboratory to study flight to Mars,” said Sergei Shakrayev, a professor at the University of Arizona and first author of the paper.

Nation World News Desk
Nation World News Desk
Nation World News is the fastest emerging news website covering all the latest news, world’s top stories, science news entertainment sports cricket’s latest discoveries, new technology gadgets, politics news, and more.
Latest news
Related news