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Mars Mission: NASA shows first plane to fly on the Red planet

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This illustration shows what a Prandtl-m might look like flying above the surface of Mars. Credits: NASA Illustration / Dennis Calaba
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Washington: The US space agency is planning to send a boomerang-shaped aircraft to Mars first to check if the conditions are ripe for the humans to land on the Red Planet.

Proposed to make its first flight to Mars in the 2020s, a prototype of the “Preliminary Research Aerodynamic Design to Land on Mars” (Prandtl-m) will be ready for a test launch from a high-altitude balloon later this year.

“The ‘Prandtl-m’ will be released at about at 100,000 feet which will simulate the flight conditions of the Martian atmosphere,” said Al Bowers, NASA Armstrong chief scientist and Prandtl-m programme manager.

“The aircraft would be part of the ballast that would be ejected from the aeroshell that takes the Mars rover to the planet,” Bowers added.

It would be able to deploy and fly in the Martian atmosphere and glide down and land.

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.

The tests could validate how the aircraft works, leading to modifications that will allow it to fold and deploy from a CubeSat in the aeroshell of a future Mars rover.

A CubeSat is a miniature satellite used for space research that is usually about four inches in each dimension.

This illustration shows what a Prandtl-m might look like flying above the surface of Mars. Credits: NASA Illustration / Dennis Calaba
This illustration shows what a Prandtl-m might look like flying above the surface of Mars.
Credits: NASA Illustration / Dennis Calaba

Because the Prandtl-m could ride in a CubeSat aboard the Mars rover piggyback stack going to Mars in 2022-2024, the additional weight would not add to the mission’s cost.

Once in the Martian atmosphere, the Prandtl-m would emerge from its host, deploy and begin its mission.

“It will have a flight time of right around 10 minutes. The aircraft would be gliding for the last 2,000 feet to the surface of Mars and have a range of about 20 miles,” Bowers said.

Before that happens, a configuration will be developed for the first of three tests here on Earth.

The actual aircraft’s wingspan, when deployed, would measure 24 inches and weigh less than a pound.

With Mars gravity 38 percent of what it is on Earth, that actually allows us up to 2.6 pounds and the vehicle will still weigh only one pound on Mars.

“It will be made of composite material, either fibreglass or carbon fibre. We believe this particular design could best recover from the unusual conditions of an ejection,” NASA reported.

The flight test could also include some scientific research that will apply to a Mars mission.

(IANS)

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What Triggers Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?

IoPPN professor Carmine Pariante stressed that while the study's main finding is a useful addition to scant scientific knowledge about CFS

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CFS
Lauren Pestikas sits as she receives an infusion of the drug ketamine during a 45-minute session at an outpatient clinic in Chicago on July 25, 2018. VOA

Scientists exploring what may trigger a complex disorder known as chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) have found clues in the way some people’s immune systems respond more actively to a health attack.

A severe illness characterized by long-term physical and mental fatigue, CFS is thought to affect up to 17 million people worldwide and around 250,000 people in Britain.

Sufferers are often bed-bound and unable to carry out basic daily activities like washing and feeding themselves.

The researchers used a drug known as interferon alpha to create a model of the syndrome and found that patients whose immune response to treatment was hyperactive or exaggerated were more likely to then develop severe fatigue.

CFS
Russell’s team used this knowledge and measured fatigue and immune system markers in 55 patients before, during and after treatment with interferon alpha.

“For the first time, we have shown that people who are prone to develop a CFS-like illness have an overactive immune system, both before and during a challenge to the immune system,” said Alice Russell of King’s College London’s Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN), who led the work.

The condition, as well as research into it, is highly contentious, in part because its possible causes and range of debilitating symptoms are poorly understood.

Interferon alpha is used as a treatment for hepatitis C infection, and activates the immune system in the same way as a powerful infection. Many patients who receive interferon alpha experience extreme fatigue during treatment, and some continue to feel chronic fatigue for many months after the drug course is completed.

Vaccination, CFS
Biologist Jason Plyler prepares to test at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda. VOA

Russell’s team used this knowledge and measured fatigue and immune system markers in 55 patients before, during and after treatment with interferon alpha.

They found that the 18 of those 55 who went on to develop a CFS-like illness had a hyperactive immune system before treatment, and an highly overactive response during treatment. “(This suggests) people who have an exaggerated immune response to a trigger may be more at risk of developing CFS,” Russell told reporters at a briefing about the findings.

Also Read: Regular Sleep in Childhood Leads to Healthy BMI Later

IoPPN professor Carmine Pariante stressed that while the study’s main finding is a useful addition to scant scientific knowledge about CFS – also known as myalgic encephalopathy (ME) – it offers few clues on how to treat, cure or prevent it.

“It’s a light in the fog,” he told reporters. “But a better understanding of the biology underlying the development of CFS is needed to help patients.” (VOA)