The US space agency is sending another mission to Mars in a few years’ time. This time, however, he wants to explore much of the planet, so in addition to the rover, plans to also send the plane there. Engineers have just unveiled another prototype of a flying machine that will hit the Red Planet in 2020.
The vehicle is called “Preliminary Research Aerodynamic Design to Land on Mars” and as NASA engineers provide, it will be ready for testing later this year. The unit is not a typical airplane because it does not have its own propulsion. This is a type of glider that, when dropped from a balloon, will orbit the planet, exploring it with its sensors.
The current prototype is still very far from the final version of the planetary sampler. The span of its wings is 62 cm, while the mass when it is in the atmosphere of Mars will be less than 0.5 kg. The unit must be very light, so it will be made of carbon fiber and fiberglass.
Upon reaching the Red Planet, the vehicle will be fired from a 3U lander along with a jeep and three miniature CubeSats satellites, which are 10 cm cubic centimeters in orbit to the planet. The plane is to have a portion of the ballast that will be shot down when the rover falls to the surface of the planet.
NASA hopes that the plane will provide valuable information about the planet’s formation and will help to find a place where future astronauts could land. The machine is circled at 600 m and will remain there for 10 minutes, which should allow the area to be checked over 30 km.