In February 2021, NASA Ingenuity Helicopter landed on Mars aboard the Perseverance rover to fly around the Martian terrain. The Martian helicopter has successfully accomplished several milestones after operating for over 1000 Martian days or sols now. After recording this great success, NASA is now planning to send a massive solar-powered electric plane to Mars. This concept was named Mars Aerial and Ground Intelligent Explorer (MAGGIE Mission).
The American Space Agency announced this innovative idea under the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Program. NASA suggests that the concept is a unique futuristic means of flying a “fixed-wing aircraft” above the Martian terrain.
“MAGGIE is a compact fixed-wing aircraft with ultra-high productivity efficiency powered by solar energy to fly in the Martian atmosphere,” mentioned NASA’s blog post.
MAGGIE mission would be able to accomplish global-scale atmospheric measurements on Mars. This innovation could potentially move our civilization into a new age of space technology.
What you Should Know About This New Concept of Sending MAGGIE to Mars
The concept of sending the MAGGIE mission to Mars was proposed by a US-based aerospace company named Coflow Jet, LLC. The company reveals that the aircraft would be able to fly at about 1,000 meters altitude above the Martian surface.
The primary goal of MAGGIE’s mission is to accomplish a detailed exploration strategy that will reveal some hidden mysteries about Martian geophysics, atmospheric chemistry, and Mars’ ability to support past or present life. The aircraft will obtain data from the Martian terrain using instruments that will eventually advance our understanding of Mars and also boost our chances of conducting successful exploration and research on the red planet in the future.
Coflow Jet, LLC revealed that they would build MAGGIE to be able to travel 179 kilometers at 1,000 meters altitude when exploring on a fully charged battery which could last for about 7.6 Martian days or sol. MAGGIE’s entire range would reach 16,048 kilometers within a Martian year.
The current preliminary plans reveal that the aircraft would be able to perform three extensive atmospheric and geophysical observations during its mission on Mars. The observations and data obtained by MAGGIE would help to significantly improve our understanding of the Martian terrains.
Some of NASA’s science goals of the aircraft include the opportunity to study the origin and timing of the Martian core dynamo, map subsurface water ice in the mid-latitudes, and study the source of methane signals in Gale Crater.
“The conceptual MAGGIE system study indicates that the concept appears to be feasible, but needs to be further investigated, designed, and verified under Martian atmospheric conditions in Phase I,” NASA wrote.
Why MAGGIE Mission Would Use VTOL Technology to Operate on Mars
The aircraft would rely on vertical take-off/landing (VTOL) technology to operate on Mars. VTOL is a highly evolving technology that would enable MAGGIE to ascent into the air and safely descend back to the ground vertically without requiring a runway.
NASA suggests that the successful demonstration of this aircraft technology on Mars could serve as a stepping stone for other advanced and futuristic similar aerial missions to other planets within the solar system. On Earth, MAGGIE’s technology would help to boost VTOL aircraft capabilities and revolutionize the aviation industry.
MAGGIE is also expected to have a cruise Mach number of 0.25 and a cruise lift coefficient (CL) of 3.5. This is about ten times more powerful than ordinary subsonic aircraft. CoFlow Jet (CFJ) is hoping that its technology will enable the aircraft to fly through the low-density atmosphere of Mars.
In addition, the introduction of the MAGGIE mission is a stepping stone to venture into unlocking the mysteries of Mars. It will also serve as a promising future to a new advanced era in exploring planets. Under NASA’s NIAC selection of 2024, it offered a glimpse of other missions including a sample return mission to Venus. Hence, we should be expecting a lot from the American space agency in exploring other planetary worlds soon.