NASA readies to test a plane they hope to use on Mars
The rovers NASA has been using to study the surface of Mars have proven immensely helpful, but they are limited to ground exploration.
In hopes of expanding the range of discovery, the agency is getting ready to test a small plane they hope will one day be able to sail through the Martian atmosphere.
Later this year, the boomerang-like craft will be will balloon-lifted to an altitude of about 100 thousand feet and released.
As that part of Earth’s atmosphere is similar to the relevant one on Mars, researchers will have an opportunity to see how the plane is likely to perform. It will also give them an idea of adjustments that need to be made.
They already know that ultimately the craft will have to be quite compact as transport space is limited. Due to limitations on the weight of objects that can be carried to Mars, it’ll also have be under 2 and a half pounds.
If all goes well, the glider could be en route to the Red Planet by the early 2020s. Once there it’ll help NASA investigate the Martian surface and locate optimal landing sights for the anticipated manned mission.