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Mars Airplane 2003 proposal
Paolo
post Jun 1 2009, 07:22 AM
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Hi all
If you have been following Mars exploration for a while, you may remember the proposal to fly a miniature airplane on Marsin 2003 to commemorate the centenary of the Wright bros' first flight.
See for example http://quest.nasa.gov/aero/planetary/MarsAir.html
I am looking for some higher resolution of the images of the unfolding sequence at the top of that article, and I remember seeing them somewhere on the net, but I can't find them any longer. Anybody knows the site, or has higher res versions saved or has the issue of "Air & Space" (December 1999) and can make a scan for me? I had that but I can't find it anymore after I moved...


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I'm one of the most durable and fervent advocates of space exploration, but my take is that we could do it robotically at far less cost and far greater quantity and quality of results.

James Van Allen
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djellison
post Jun 1 2009, 08:02 AM
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Would this not be a more appropriate starting point?
http://marsairplane.larc.nasa.gov/multimedia.html#animations
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Paolo
post Jun 1 2009, 10:33 AM
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It is not the same mission, the one I am talking about is the 1999 pre-Polar Lander proposal to fly in 2003. The site is for the mission proposed in 2003 to fly in 2007


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I'm one of the most durable and fervent advocates of space exploration, but my take is that we could do it robotically at far less cost and far greater quantity and quality of results.

James Van Allen
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Astro0
post Jun 1 2009, 11:49 AM
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There's an interesting passage in that 1999 article about the Mars Airplane:

...Weighing about 400 pounds, it would fly for six hours or so, land, study the surface, then take off a month later for more cruising. The Ames people even had a target in mind: Gusev Crater, which, evidence suggests, may have once been a lakebed. Water inside the crater might have been warmed by a large volcano more than 100 miles to the north. Many researchers-especially at Ames, where the crater has a particularly passionate set of advocates-think Gusev could hold traces of past Martian life...

Imagine what would have happened if that mission had gotten off the ground (pun intended), and arrived at Gusev only to find a basalt surface. A month later it heads for the Columbia Hills and can't find a place to land. It sets down in the flat plains beyond Husband Hill and well away from Homeplate and never studies the silica soils or see the layered rocks. Sure it could reach other areas (perhaps) but would it have made the same discoveries a rover has been able to do? I wonder? Of course, these are same assumptions that the MER team made about Gusev.

Anyway.... images for the Mars Aircraft....called Kittyhawk as I recall. Also there was MAGE (Mars Airborne Geophysical Explorer).
The movie of the deployment here may be of some use.
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djellison
post Jun 1 2009, 12:33 PM
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ohmy.gif Now I remember that plane!

http://www.mars3d.com/PWMarsExplorer3.htm

I did it in 3DS Max about 10 years ago!
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mcaplinger
post Jun 1 2009, 04:39 PM
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QUOTE (Astro0 @ Jun 1 2009, 03:49 AM) *
Also known as MAGE (Mars Airborne Geophysical Explorer).

It's important to note that there have been many Mars airplane proposals with various combinations of proposers and many different mission profiles. The Gusev land-and-take-off-again proposal was all NASA Ames, I believe. MAGE was a traverse of Valles Marineris with no take-off capability and was a team of MSSS, NRL, OSC, and Ames. The last one I know of, ARES, was managed by NASA Langley and involved a whole bunch of groups (but not Ames).

MAGE: http://www.msss.com/mage_release/index.html


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Disclaimer: This post is based on public information only. Any opinions are my own.
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vjkane
post Jun 2 2009, 05:04 AM
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I think that the very high resolution cameras on orbiting spacecraft pretty much killed off the appeal of aircraft on Mars from a scientific view. There area a few missions they could do better such as studying remnant magnetism or ground water/ice at high resolution. However, the area they could cover would be small, the design is difficult, and data relay would be a bitch.

I personally always found the idea romantic, though.


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mcaplinger
post Jun 2 2009, 01:34 PM
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QUOTE (vjkane @ Jun 1 2009, 10:04 PM) *
I think that the very high resolution cameras on orbiting spacecraft pretty much killed off the appeal of aircraft on Mars from a scientific view.

That must explain why aircraft are never used on Earth for geophysical surveys now that we have satellites. rolleyes.gif

Our Mars airplane proposals were never primarily about imaging, but about things that were difficult or impossible to do from orbit like electric field and gravimetric sensors. But I agree they are tough missions to justify at our current level of technology, cost, and budget.


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vjkane
post Jun 2 2009, 01:59 PM
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QUOTE (mcaplinger @ Jun 2 2009, 01:34 PM) *
That must explain why aircraft are never used on Earth for geophysical surveys now that we have satellites. rolleyes.gif

Yeah, but on Earth, you get to reuse the airplane after each flight and can download the data after the safe landing. Just as soon as we open a network of airfields on Mars, I know that planes will be used extensively. laugh.gif

I do agree that there are some good uses for planes on Mars for non-imaging science, but the short life and data relay remain big problems. On earth, there are solar powered planes in development that can essentially remain on station for long periods (using batteries at night). I presume that the lower solar power available at Mars makes this non-viable. If this problem could be overcome, then I think that a plane to explore multiple regions over many days would be a dynamite mission.


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Paolo
post Jun 2 2009, 07:36 PM
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There are some nice images of the 1999 Mars aircraft proposal presented alongside a replica Wright Flyer on Ames' image gallery
http://ails.arc.nasa.gov/ails/printPreview.php?rid=2376
http://ails.arc.nasa.gov/ails/printPreview.php?rid=2377
http://ails.arc.nasa.gov/ails/printPreview.php?rid=2391
http://ails.arc.nasa.gov/ails/printPreview.php?rid=2392


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I'm one of the most durable and fervent advocates of space exploration, but my take is that we could do it robotically at far less cost and far greater quantity and quality of results.

James Van Allen
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