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The Aerial Regional-scale Environmental Surveyor (Ares), around the size of a small plane, will be folded into a rocket and launched to the red planet. It would be the first aircraft ever to fly over another world.
After entering the atmosphere in a capsule, the aircraft would deploy parachutes and unfold its wings and tail, before firing its rocket motor and flying around a mile above the surface of Mars for around an hour and a quarter.
The idea is that an atmospheric craft like Ares can explore far more ground than existing rovers, like Spirit and Phoenix, but in much more detail than an orbital spacecraft. It is hoped that it could cover as much as 600 square miles in its short flight.
While the idea was tabled several years ago, with suggestions it could even have launched by 2007, no progress has so far been made.
Originally posted by SyphonX
Yeah... how about we turn some of that money inward, you know.. towards the ailing residents of planet earth, instead of hucking it into space.
The airplane has a 6.25 m wingspan with a total wet mass of 185 kg and has to ability to fly over 600 km through the atmosphere of Mars with 45 kg of MMH / MON3 propellant.
Originally posted by Phage
...In five years, the two Mars Exploration Rovers have covered a combined distance of about 21 km...
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - -- In the wake of criticism that NASA's next-generation Constellation Program rockets are behind schedule and over budget, agency engineers are hastily reviewing alternative designs for a new heavy-lift rocket capable of exploring the solar system affordably and relatively quickly.
Among the options they are looking at: a rocket made of the space shuttle's external fuel tank, engines and solid-rocket boosters that has been championed by freelance engineers and hobbyists, and a successor to the Saturn V that once carried astronauts to the moon.