The search for water on Mars could include hunting from the skies of the Red Planet.
An early-stage rover, called MAGI, will search for water on Mars from above the planet's atmosphere. In fact, MAGGIE has just received the first tranche of funding from NASA on the long road to flight readiness.
Although there is no timetable yet for the rover's first flight, another Mars rover continues to outpace and excel. The Ingenuity helicopter on the Red Planet, which was originally designed to make just five flights, has now surpassed 70 takeoffs and is still going strong. She is currently helping her rover partner, Perseverance, search for ancient water and life on the barren world.
Agency officials said the ingenuity is an incredible gesture Advance this month, credits the strength of NASA's Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program because it represents the legacy of this helicopter's technology. So, given Ingenuity's success, there is hope that MAGGIE will one day follow in its flight footsteps and explore Mars from the air.
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MAGI, the Intelligent Aerial and Ground Mars Explorer, is a solar-powered aircraft designed for vertical take-off and landing. that it Technical brief It states that it can fly up to 111 miles (179 km) on a single charge, and is rated to fly approximately 10,000 miles (16,048 km) in one Martian year, the equivalent of approximately 24 Earth months.
Flying 3,300 feet (1,000 meters) above the Red Planet, MAGI will focus on three scientific investigations: searching for water, better understanding the source of Mars' weak magnetic field, and searching for signs of elusive methane (which may not be a sign of life, depending on the source). .)
The caveat with MAGGIE is how early the technology is, wrote principal investigator Ge-Cheng Zha of Coflow Jet, LLC in the mission's technical notes. While the concept seems “feasible,” Cha urges further study “under Martian atmospheric conditions,” which would be less than 1 percent of atmospheric conditions on Earth at sea level.
Providing Phase I funding from NIAC allows the concept to continue, Cha said, also explaining that the aircraft will be useful for large-scale surveying operations one day.
Zaha stated that MAGI “will revolutionize our ability to explore almost the entire surface of Mars” and will garner a lot of public engagement because of its “boldness, and the diverse environments it can explore, study and image.”
Funding for MAGGIE under NIAC does not necessarily guarantee a future flight date, but other Mars flyers may be on the way soon — pending ongoing funding issues. A Mars sample return mission, which could return caches from the Perseverance rover in the 2030s, could involve two helicopters to bring back the samples if the rover can't transport the caches to the return vehicle itself.
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