Is THIS the first plane that will fly on Mars? Prototype of Nasa aircraft completes its first test flight
*Named Prandtl-M, the aircraft will be small and piloted remotely
*Has been designed by Nasa engineers along with two groups of students
*Prototype flew on 11 August at the Armstrong Flight Research Centre
*It could one day fly in Mars’ atmosphere and return samples to Earth
As increasing numbers of people focus on reaching the red planet, the journey to Mars is getting closer by the day.
Now a prototype of a new aircraft has officially been flown, bringing it a step closer to making its trip to the red planet.
The airplane, designed by students, could one day fly in Mars’ atmosphere and return samples to Earth.
PRANDTL-M: KEY STATS
• Wingspan: 25 feet (7.6 metres)
• Weight: 28 pounds (12.7 kg)
• Airspeed: 18 knots (approximately 21 mph)
• Testing altitude (maximum): 220 feet (67 metres)
• Main materials: Carbon fiber for structure, with fiberglass for the skin
The Preliminary Research Aerodynamic Design to Land on Mars, or Prandtl-M, is a small, remotely piloted glider aircraft.
The prototype flew on 11 August at the Nasa Armstrong Flight Research Centre in California.
Envisioned with a wingspan of two feet and weighing less than three pounds, the aircraft would be able to deploy, fly in the Martian atmosphere, glide down and land.
During its flight over Mars could, the plane would collect very detailed high-resolution topographic images that could tell scientists about the suitability of potential landing sites.
‘The first successful flights felt like a huge relief,’ said John Bodylski, a mechanical engineering student at Irvine Valley College in California.
‘While we still plan to perfect the design, it is a pretty exciting feeling to realise that the aircraft is working. At first I didn’t believe it and had to re-watch the footage from the flight.’
The design began last year with a different group of students.