NASA to send a solar-powered aircraft to Mars: what it will look like
Mars is known to be the only planet in the solar system that is entirely inhabited by robots. And in the near future, the MAGGIE solar-powered airplane may join the iron "settlers" of the red planet.
According to NASA, the concept of such an aircraft was selected as part of the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program. The purpose of this program is to promote the development of innovative ideas proposed by representatives of the scientific community.
NIAC has been operating since 1998 and allows NASA-selected projects to receive funding to conduct early-stage technological research that could lead to future applications.
Recently, NASA announced 13 concepts that will receive a total of up to $175 thousand in grants. This money will be spent to help the developers of the ideas prove the feasibility of their concepts and present the prospects for technology development.
One of the most interesting conceptual vehicles that has received approval from NASA is a Mars aerial vehicle called the Mars Aerial and Ground Global Intelligent Explorer (MAGGIE). The idea was proposed by Gecheng Zha, professor of aerodynamics at the University of Miami and president of Coflow Jet LLC. It will be a compact fixed-wing solar-powered aircraft capable of vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL).
"The bold missions that NASA undertakes for the benefit of humanity begin with an idea, and NIAC is responsible for inspiring many of those ideas. The Ingenuity helicopter flying on Mars and the instruments on the MarCO deep space satellites can trace their lineage back to NIAC, proving that there is a path from a creative idea to mission success," said NASA Deputy Administrator Jim Free.
The MAGGIE Martian aircraft will be capable of traveling at Mach 0.25 (approximately 300 km/h) with a cruise lift coefficient of 3.5 (higher than conventional subsonic aircraft in the rarefied atmosphere of Mars).
A full battery charge will last for 7.6 Martian days (a Martian day or Sol is almost 40 minutes longer than a day on Earth). The flight range at an altitude of 1 km above the surface of Mars will be 179 km.
In general, according to preliminary calculations, MAGGIE will be able to cover a little more than 16 thousand km in a Martian year, which lasts 668 sols.
Zha said that the aircraft will have an advantage over other Mars exploration robots because it can reach any part of the planet.
"It has a global range. It can go anywhere on Mars. All previous rovers can only explore a certain point on Mars. Their ranges are very limited. MAGGIE can explore not only the surface of the planet but also the atmosphere as it flies," Zha said.
The professor also believes that the VTOL system, if it proves to be successful in the Martian aircraft, can give impetus to the development of similar technology on Earth, where it will be used for flying electric vehicles for the public.
Earlier, OBOZ.UA told you about the six main space missions of 2024.