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Will NASA Send This Foldable, Boomerang-Shaped Airplane to Mars?

posted: 07/02/15
by: Discovery.com Staff
Prandtl-m
NASA

The first airplane to soar through the Martian atmosphere could be this boomerang-shaped contraption, NASA announced earlier this week.

Known as the Preliminary Research Aerodynamic Design to Land on Mars (Prandtl-m, for short), the aircraft would fold down into a CubeSat for the duration of its journey from Earth to Mars. Upon arrival at the Red Planet, Prandtl-m would unfurl completely and be sent soaring around Mars to complete an important reconnaissance mission.

"The Prandtl-m could overfly some of the proposed landing sites for a future astronaut mission and send back to Earth very detailed high resolution photographic map images that could tell scientists about the suitability of those landing sites," explains Prandtl-m program manager Al Bowers.

A Prandtl-m test flight is currently on the books for later this year. The aircraft will be released from a balloon 100,000 feet above the surface of Earth to simulate the flight conditions on Mars.

Prandtl-m is a relatively small device: its wingspan measures a mere two feet, and it weighs less than a pound. Regardless, the mission represents an important milestone on mankind's journey to Mars.

Click here for more information from NASA

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