(ORDO NEWS) — Scientists at the University of Arizona have developed and tested on Earth lightweight gliders to fly over the surface of Mars. Such a drone will use only the energy of the Martian wind and will be able to soar for several days.
Gliders will help to see the Martian landscapes from low altitudes
Eight active spacecraft orbit Mars, collecting images of the planet’s surface at a resolution of about 30 cm per pixel.
The three rovers traverse the planet’s surface, mapping small areas of the planet with greater accuracy. But what lies hundreds of kilometers between rovers and orbiters, including atmospheric climate processes and geological features such as volcanoes and canyons, is often of greatest interest to planetary scientists.
Alexander Kling, a scientist at NASA’s Mars Climate Simulation Center, says: “This is where all the exchanges between the surface and the atmosphere take place.
Here, dust is picked up and released into the atmosphere, gas impurities mix here, and large-scale winds are modulated by mountain-valley flows. We just have very little data on these processes.”
A team of engineers from the University of Arizona tried to fill this gap, according to Techxplore. Scientists have developed a non-powered glider that can hover over the Martian surface for several days using only wind power to propel itself. Equipped with flight, temperature and gas sensors, as well as video cameras, the gliders will weigh only 5 kg.
Flight of the albatross
Flight to Mars is difficult due to the thin atmosphere of the planet, but there is already a completed project.
This is Ingenuity, a 2 kg helicopter that has been operating in the Martian crater Jezero since 2021 in conjunction with the Perseverance rover. This is the first device to fly on another planet. It runs on solar panels.
But the new airframe does not need batteries and accumulators. It will use only wind power. Wind-powered light gliders with a wingspan of about 3 m will use several different flight methods, including static hover in the presence of a vertical wind.
But they can also use a technique called dynamic soaring, which albatrosses use on long flights: horizontal wind speeds often increase with altitude, a phenomenon that is especially common on Mars.
The glider will fly up in a small balloon and be able to hover for several days. Even descending to the surface, it will transmit data from the landing site.
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