Research, Technology

Planes for flights on Mars: what can they be?

In 2021, the Ingenuity helicopter proved thatvehicles suitable for flights over the Earth are suitable for use on Mars. This discovery was extremely unexpected - initially, NASA specialists were not sure that their invention would be able to fly through the rarefied atmosphere of the Red Planet. But everything worked out, and now the Ingenuity Martian apparatus is used to study hard-to-reach places on the planet and lay easy routes for the Perseverance rover. The question arises: will full-fledged aircraft ever appear on Mars and for what purposes can they be used? Scientists are already planning to launch a new aircraft that is different from Ingenuity and more like a full-fledged aircraft. Sounds interesting, doesn't it?

Soon there may be more aircraft on Mars

new martian plane

New aircraft for Marsdeveloped by scientists from the US state of Arizona. At the moment, they only have drawings of the future device, a computer model and a usage plan. The device is a glider - it is a non-motorized structure supported in flight by the aerodynamic force created on the wings by the oncoming air currents. It is assumed that the glider will have a mass of about 5 kilograms, and have wings of 1.8 square meters and a span of 3.4 meters.

Martian glider size compared to humans

The wings of the apparatus will inflate andunfold using nitrogen, which is generated by a special system. Scientists have not yet decided which version of the wings to choose - with or without a rigid carbon composite support structure. Since the glider will not be equipped with a motor, it will require a larger aircraft such as an airship or a balloon to launch it. It is assumed that flights will be able to take place in three modes: static soaring, dynamic soaring and maneuvering along the crests of canyons on Mars.

Airframe Wing Deployment Diagram

Canyons are deep river valleys with sheerslopes and narrow bottoms. Like on Earth, they are on Mars, because once upon a time there were huge rivers with liquid water. There are good conditions for glider flights in the canyons, so it is planned to use them only there. It is believed that after leaving the airship, the aircraft will be able to fly in the atmosphere of Mars from 20 minutes to 24 hours or longer. With the help of built-in cameras and sensors, they will be able to study the surface of the planet and send data to Earth for further study. After the flight, the gliders will land and play the role of weather stations. So, at least, the developers plan.

Approximate scheme of the flight of the Martian glider

You will be interested: 5 Amazing Features of Ingenuity's Mars Helicopter

What are airplanes on Mars for?

When exactly will such devices be delivered toMars, unknown. When scientists create a prototype and prove its performance, the final version will be created. It could be sent to Mars as part of a larger science mission, or as the main devices of a separate exploration campaign. The mission is planned to be divided into 5 major phases:

  • initial deployment and flight preparation;
  • route planning;
  • search for scientific targets and their observation;
  • search and study of remote, secondary targets;
  • turning the device into a weather station.

Approximate appearance of the Martian glider

NASA has obtained oxygen on Mars for the first time in history. How it was?

Martian plane ARES

It should be noted that this glider is notone of a kind. The space agency NASA in 2011 or 2013 planned to send similar aircraft to Mars, referred to as the Aerial Regional-scale Environmental Survey (ARES). Unlike the glider mentioned above, this device was supposed to receive rocket engines and fly at an altitude of about 1.5 kilometers above the surface of Mars. The ARES project could well have become one of NASA's current missions, but at one of the decisive moments, the Phoenix mission was chosen for launch.

Aircraft Aerial Regional-scale Environmental Survey

The interplanetary station "Phoenix" worked onthe surface of Mars in 2008. It was equipped with a set of instruments designed to study the geological history of water on the planet and search for the conditions in which life could originate. The data collected during this short mission is still being studied. Recently, scientists from the US used the collected information to calculate the age of the ice on Mars from its reflectivity. My colleague Andrey Zhukov spoke about this amazing discovery - here is the link.

In order not to miss important news, subscribe to our Zen channel. See what interesting articles there are.

As you can see, scientists are trying to find traces of life onMars for a long time. Let's fantasize a little - when do you think the sensational discovery will happen? Or maybe we are not destined to find traces of the Martians? Write in the comments or our Telegram chat.