9
$\begingroup$

NASA has been working on a glider aircraft they wanted to send to Mars - this is the Aerial Regional-scale Environmental Survey. (ARES)

How long would it be able to travel? What would be the possible maximum distance for ARES to travel through?

$\endgroup$
6
$\begingroup$

According to this documentation (PDF) from 2012 on mission implementation of The Aerial Regional-scale Environmental Surveyor (ARES) Concepts and Approaches for Mars Exploration by Levine et al., NASA Langley Research Center:

Transition, extraction, and deployment of the ARES aerial vehicle use proven methods demonstrated during the airplane technology development. After release, the aerial vehicle will fly a 500 km flight path to perform the aeromagnetic survey, determine local radiation levels, search for the presence and concentration of chemically active gases, measure atmospheric dust and electric fields, and measure the local density and wind. All data will be transmitted to either the carrier spacecraft as it flies by Mars or to an existing orbital asset.

So the mission goal was for this aerobot to fly 500 kilometers. As for its capabilities to sustain flight in Martian atmosphere, since its proposal mentions the use of a rocket system to achieve flight, its total range would be limited by the amount of the rocket propellant it could still fly with, and was in no way meant as a permanent addition to the Martian skies. I wasn't able to find any theoretical limits to this proposed aerobot's maximum range, but since the last (2012) proposal dropped any idea of using other propulsion technologies, I would expect the mission objectives as described before to match its theoretical total range well enough. So, 500 kilometers ± an acceptable margin of error?

Since I wasn't able to answer your question better (I was stuck at those 500 kilometers with my search, and other references I could find were even older), here's a nice image of artist's impression on how the ARES aerial platform could look like while performing its survey of the red planet:

               enter image description here

$\endgroup$
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Note: Mark above explained the mathematically possible maximum (700 km), but I think we agree that it's very unlikely to reach. $\endgroup$ – Zoltán Schmidt Oct 4 '13 at 12:25
7
$\begingroup$

The concept was not a glider, but powered. It used storable biprop propellant rocket thrusters to fly at best for 81 minutes at 140 m/s. That comes out to a 680 km flight. With margins applied for mass growth during development, the range would be at or above the science requirement of 500 km. Once the propellant runs out, then it is a glider, but not for long. It's mission would end impacting the surface at high speed.

$\endgroup$
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ considering pressure of Mars atmosphere gliders are about impossible there... Anything slower would pretty much stall too, and propeller-based engines don't have enough air to propel the craft against. No oxygen for standard jet engines, so rocket it is. $\endgroup$ – SF. Oct 4 '13 at 6:46
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Thanks for enlighting me! @SF. Just an interesting thing: flying on Mars was explained here $\endgroup$ – Zoltán Schmidt Oct 4 '13 at 12:22
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I was remembering very round numbers. I have updated them to the real values. $\endgroup$ – Mark Adler Jan 11 '15 at 16:29
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Yes, the speed is intentionally well below Mach 1. "its upper speed is limited by the onset of the transonic drag rise at Mach 0.73, similar to most terrestrial airplanes." $\endgroup$ – Mark Adler Jan 11 '15 at 16:35
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ It was planned to fly only for a short time during the day. $\endgroup$ – Mark Adler Jan 12 '15 at 15:04

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.