Should NASA send an albatross to Mars? How a new bird-like glider could reveal the red planet’s secrets

NASA’s innovative small Mars helicopter on the surface of Mars was a complete success. Sent to the red planet by the Perseverance rover 2020, it has already made 27 short reconnaissance flights.

Agility reaches places that rovers cannot, especially in rocky terrain, but it has its limits. Its small size means a small battery, which means that it can only fly for three minutes at a time and is only 39ft / 12m long.

So the engineers came up with something better for their future missions to Mars, something that could fly much higher for a much longer time: the Albatross aircraft.

Mars is covered from above by many orbits and on Earth by many rovers, but apart from the test flights of ingenuity, there are no eyes on this intermediate layer.

This means that planetary scientists lack data on the climate in March as well as geological properties such as volcanoes and valleys. All this happens during the first kilometers above the surface.

“This is where all exchanges between surface and atmosphere take place, where dust is captured and released into the atmosphere, where tracer gases are mixed and where large-scale wind modulation of mountain valleys takes place,” Alexander Kling, research researcher at NASA’s Mars Climate Simulation Center. “We do not have much data on this.”

So King partnered with a team of engineers at the University of Arizona to develop a concept for a light, inexpensive, wind-powered glider. Published in a newspaper Place This Week’s Magazine It describes how the albatross-like units, which have a wingspan of 11 feet and weigh only 11 pounds, can fly over the surface of Mars for days with only wind power to power them. Creativity weighs about 4 pounds.

On board are flight, temperature and gas sensors, as well as cameras – but without a battery.

Gliders will fly in vertical winds and, like albatrosses in long flight, will take advantage of horizontal wind speeds, often increasing with altitude, to increase speed as they change direction.

Fortunately, there are many horizontal winds on Mars.

The plan is to send one or two gliders to Mars as a technical demonstration, perhaps packaged in small CubeSats for origami-style deployment or balloon-caged from the surface.

Researchers say that when they eventually crash, they can continue to function as weather stations.

I wish you a clear sky and big eyes.

Leave a Comment