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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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Hubble Returns To Normal Functioning Soon: NASA

After the engineering tests have been completed, Hubble is expected to soon return to normal science operations, NASA stated

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Hubble's backup gyro, which had been off for more than 7.5 years, was incorrectly returning extremely high rotation rates. Flcikr

NASA has brought Hubble Space Telescope’s seven-year old backup gyroscope (gyro) back to life, after the spacecraft entered safe mode due to a failed gyro earlier this month, the US space agency said on Tuesday.

A gyro is a device that measures the speed at which the spacecraft is turning and is needed to help Hubble turn and lock on to new targets.

Hubble’s backup gyro, which had been off for more than 7.5 years, was incorrectly returning extremely high rotation rates, NASA said in a statement.

Hubble
The Hubble Telescope hovering in space. Wikimedia Commons

This gyro was turned on after the spacecraft entered safe mode due to a failed gyro on October 5.

Additional tests will be performed to ensure Hubble can return to science operations with this gyro, NASA said.

To correct high rotation rates, the Hubble team executed a running restart of the gyro on October 16.

This procedure turned the gyro off for one second, and then restarted it before the wheel spun down.

However, the data showed no improvement in the gyro’s performance.

Hubble Telescope. red dwarf
This gyro was turned on after the spacecraft entered safe mode due to a failed gyro on October 5. Flickr

The team, then on October 18, commanded a series of spacecraft maneuvers, or turns, in opposite directions to attempt to clear any blockage that may have caused the float to be off-centre and produce the exceedingly high rates.

During each maneuver, the gyro was switched from high mode to low mode to dislodge any blockage that may have accumulated around the float.

They noticed a significant reduction in the high rates, allowing rates to be measured in low mode for brief periods of time.

On October 19, the team again commanded Hubble to perform additional maneuvers and gyro mode switches, which appear to have cleared the issue.

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The planet Mars is shown May 12, 2016 in this NASA Hubble Space Telescope view when it was 50 million miles from Earth. VOA

The rotation rates produced by the backup gyro have since reduced and are now within an expected range, NASA noted.

Also Read: New Gamma-Ray Collection Named After Hulk, Godzilla: NASA

The team plans to execute a series of tests to evaluate the performance of the gyro under conditions similar to those encountered during routine science observations, including moving to targets, locking on to a target, and performing precision pointing.

After these engineering tests have been completed, Hubble is expected to soon return to normal science operations, NASA stated. (IANS)