Prandtl-m
NASA’s rendition of how Prandtl-m would look in Martian Sky

Talk about Mars and the first thing that comes to my mind is the civilization like one in the original sci-fi hit Total Recall. For the starters, it looks like we are one step closer to get a ride to Mars with the flight testing of the possible designs of aircrafts that will soon begin here on Earth.

The first aircraft to fly in the Martian sky won’t be a swanky aeromobile but a humble glider that looks much like a boomerang, except it won’t be returning back to earth. NASA released a proposed photo of the aircraft Prandtl-m on Monday that is based on its predecessor Prandtl-d which is a radio controlled glider.

Prandtl-m will have a robust and an impressive aerodynamics that would enable it to survive navigation through the Martian space. Its wings will be made of a lightweight yet strong material like fiberglass making it lighter than a pound on Mars.

Prandtl-d
Prandtl-d as seen in flight testing in June

A prototype of Prandtl-m would be tested later in 2015. It will be launched from a balloon at 100,000 ft to replicate conditions on Mars and look out for further modifications in the design. The aim is to create a design with retractable wings to allow the aircraft to fit into a compact CubeSat, a minisatellite.

According to a scientist at NASA and Prandtl-m program manager:

The Prandtl-m could overfly some of the proposed landing sites for a future astronaut mission and send back to Earth very detailed high-resolution photographic map images that could tell scientists about the suitability of those landing sites

If everything goes right in the first testing, then the aircraft would be put through a series of more challenging tests with the perception to fly Humans on Mars one day.

If the Prandtl-m completes a 450,000-foot drop, then I think the project stands a very good chance of being able to go to NASA headquarters and say we would like permission to ride to Mars with one of the rovers

The engineers are quite upbeat about the project and the main challenge they consider after perfecting the design is to create a reckoning system to be able to navigate in Mars. If this project is successful then the scientists at NASA are hoping to get a ride to Mars maybe around 2022.

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source/image credits: NASA