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Aerial Drone To Hunt For Life On Mars

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the care-for-some-martian-venison dept.

Mars 152

astroengine writes "What if the Martian terrain is too rugged for a rover to traverse? How do we study surface features that are too small for an orbiter to resolve? If selected by NASA, the Aerial Regional-Scale Environment Surveyor (ARES) could soar high above the Martian landscape, getting a unique birds-eye view of the Red Planet. Its primary mission is to sniff out potential microbial-life-generating gases like methane, but it would also be an ideal reconnaissance vehicle to find future landing sites for a manned expedition. Prototypes of the rocket-powered drone have been successfully flown here on Earth, so will we see ARES on Mars any time soon?"

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first, nuclear waste, now, exhaust gases (1, Funny)

ChipMonk (711367) | more than 4 years ago | (#34235618)

Just how badly are we trying to alter the Martian environment, before we even get to walk in it?

Re:first, nuclear waste, now, exhaust gases (1)

falldeaf (968657) | more than 4 years ago | (#34235704)

Maybe this is short sited but I think the gains from making it to mars will be greater than detriment changes we'll make to the planet.

Re:first, nuclear waste, now, exhaust gases (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#34235866)

Gains? You're on crack. I think you fundamentally just don't understand the reality of space and our technology.

Oh, and it's "sighted", dumbass.

Re:first, nuclear waste, now, exhaust gases (1)

TheKidWho (705796) | more than 4 years ago | (#34236146)

Fortunately we have myopic bastards such as yourself to teach us the reality of space and our technology.

Re:first, nuclear waste, now, exhaust gases (3, Funny)

biryokumaru (822262) | more than 4 years ago | (#34235714)

Ya, we're just running our A.R.S.E.S. all over it, aren't we?

Re:first, nuclear waste, now, exhaust gases (1)

scuzzlebutt (517123) | more than 4 years ago | (#34235784)

We'll just get the convicts we'll be sending there on the one-way trip to clean up the mess...

the Mars Vault was the toughest yet... (1)

Thud457 (234763) | more than 4 years ago | (#34235954)

WTF is this /.?! More Mars stories on the front page than Apple stories?!!

Re:the Mars Vault was the toughest yet... (1)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 4 years ago | (#34236002)

Yeah! Everyone knows that apples are better for your health than chocolate bars!

Re:the Mars Vault was the toughest yet... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#34236124)

Have you ever worked for the Mars Bars corporation?

Re:the Mars Vault was the toughest yet... (0, Troll)

c6gunner (950153) | more than 4 years ago | (#34236246)

Yeah, a new study just came out which shows that long-term iPhone usage causes genital warts and severe rectal bleeding, so the fanboys are trying to bury the news.

Wassat? You hadn't heard about the study? SEE, they're SUCCEEDING!

Re:first, nuclear waste, now, exhaust gases (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 4 years ago | (#34235880)

Just how badly are we trying to alter the Martian environment, before we even get to walk in it?

We're not altering the Martian environment at all.

Re:first, nuclear waste, now, exhaust gases (1)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#34235972)

That depends on your definition of environment. Planting our Earth manufactured robot underneath a bunch of martian sand might have profound effects in the future, butterfly and all that.

Re:first, nuclear waste, now, exhaust gases (2, Informative)

khallow (566160) | more than 4 years ago | (#34236306)

That depends on your definition of environment. Planting our Earth manufactured robot underneath a bunch of martian sand might have profound effects in the future, butterfly and all that.

It obviously does have a profound affect on the future in that it expands human knowledge concerning Mars considerably. But the sort of effect you're refer to is not a genuine change, but just a slight bump to a chaotic system (which it is reasonable to assume Martian weather is). All the good and bad parts of martian weather would happen anyway with the same frequency and we still would be relatively clueless as to what weather is to come. So it doesn't change anything for us nor does it change anything for any Martian life that happens to be there. The environment is not the second to second changes in Martian weather. It's the long term stuff which remains after you filter out the short term chaotic noise.

Re:first, nuclear waste, now, exhaust gases (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 4 years ago | (#34236600)

Though we are sterilizing landers, just to be safe (I wonder how that will look with eventual manned exploration - we can produce sterile lab animals, but...) - and tenuousness of Martian atmosphere means even a miniscule additions make a noticeable difference (like that methane mystery - which, in the end, represents an exceedingly small amounts)

UAV to hunt for life on Mars... (3, Funny)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 4 years ago | (#34235620)

And will be carrying a Hellfire missile, just in case said life decides to get uppity.

Or just to make the end-of-life for the UAV much more exciting. Either way.

Re:UAV to hunt for life on Mars... (1)

SnarfQuest (469614) | more than 4 years ago | (#34235846)

Just nuke it from orbit. That's the only way to be sure.

Re:UAV to hunt for life on Mars... (3, Insightful)

eleuthero (812560) | more than 4 years ago | (#34236420)

For all that the rest of it was a glorious romp through suspension of disbelief land, nuking anything from orbit has never made sense to me--why not "kinetic bombardment" or something similar... probably not the same level of immediate--"ooh, that would be bad" from the audience.

Important Message from Marvin: (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#34235876)

You have made me very angry - very angry indeed!

Rocket-powered? (4, Insightful)

gman003 (1693318) | more than 4 years ago | (#34235630)

Wouldn't something less fuel-hungry give a longer usable life, and thus be a better return on investment? Solar-powered propellers, or just a helium balloon, might make more sense, as every gram of fuel takes away from the payload.

Re:Rocket-powered? (3, Insightful)

Biogenesis (670772) | more than 4 years ago | (#34235808)

I'm no expert, but since the atmospheric pressure on Mars is so low propellers/balloons etc probably won't work very well.

Re:Rocket-powered? (1)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#34235938)

Wouldn't that make ballons better?

I'm not an expert either. In fact, I have an odd feeling I might be ridiculed for asking such a question.

Re:Rocket-powered? (2, Informative)

edumacator (910819) | more than 4 years ago | (#34235986)

Wouldn't that make ballons better?

The problem there is there is no clear path for it to take. It would be at the mercy of the winds, which can reach up to 100mph.

Re:Rocket-powered? (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 4 years ago | (#34236294)

Such winds would be a good thing, allowing exploration of vast area over the course of a week or so.

Re:Rocket-powered? (1)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | more than 4 years ago | (#34236532)

Not if you (a) want to go somewhere in particular and (b) get slammed into a cliff/the ground.

Re:Rocket-powered? (3, Informative)

Lord Byron II (671689) | more than 4 years ago | (#34236034)

Balloons work off of the differential between the inside air pressure and the outside air pressure. If the outside air pressure is low, then even if you manage to generate a vacuum inside the balloon, the differential is still small and therefore so is the lift.

Re:Rocket-powered? (1, Informative)

Nadaka (224565) | more than 4 years ago | (#34236224)

What? I can't tell if you are trolling or on crack. "Vacuum" inside a ballon? really?

For all intents and purposes, given the same temperature and pressure any volume of gas has approximately the same molar density.

Hydrogen and Helium balloons float because they have less mass per molecule than earth air (and much less per molecule than mars air), and that mass difference is enough to make up for the relatively high density of the relatively thin balloon.

Re:Rocket-powered? (1)

Nadaka (224565) | more than 4 years ago | (#34236344)

You know what, that description isn't close to correct either, I am suffering caffeine withdrawal. But it is a lot better than "vacuum".

Re:Rocket-powered? (5, Informative)

snookums (48954) | more than 4 years ago | (#34236564)

What the GP is getting as is that the theoretically most efficient aerostat you can build is one with a rigid shell and an evacuated interior. It's not really a balloon, per se, hence the confusion.

Any actual balloon full of gas will always have less density differential than this, and thus generate less lift.

In practice, the mass of extra material required to build a rigid shell generally outweighs any extra lift you could get over a hydrogen or helium balloon. Hence, you don't see evacuated aerostats outside science fiction (e.g. Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson).

Re:Rocket-powered? (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#34236238)

Physics FAIL

Pressures inside balloons (and anything else like water droplets for that matter) are actually higher than the ambient pressure by an amount related to the surface tension of the membrane or liquid-gas interface.

Also, bouyancy works based on density differences, not pressure differences. You can have compress air to have as high a pressure as you want and it will still float so long as the final density is less than water's.

Re:Rocket-powered? (2, Informative)

icebike (68054) | more than 4 years ago | (#34236240)

Balloons work off of the differential between the inside air pressure and the outside air pressure. If the outside air pressure is low, then even if you manage to generate a vacuum inside the balloon, the differential is still small and therefore so is the lift.

Balloons work on a difference in WEIGHT of the gases inside the balloon compared to the outside air that is displaced.

It has nothing to do with pressure. Hot air balloons are not sealed, they are open at the bottom. Essentially zero pressure differential.

See, those days you skipped out of science in the 7th grade to smoke weed in the park come back to bite you.

Re:Rocket-powered? (1)

c6gunner (950153) | more than 4 years ago | (#34236332)

I'm not an expert either. In fact, I have an odd feeling I might be ridiculed for asking such a question.

If you hadn't included that disclaimer, you probably would have been :) But yeah, you got it completely backwards. The higher the atmospheric pressure, the easier it is to generate lift. A balloon filled with regular air will rise just fine when submerged in water (an "H20 Atmosphere") , but won't do dick when it's in earth-normal atmosphere. If you had a pure-helium atmosphere, a helium balloon would likewise do absolutely nothing.

Re:Rocket-powered? (1)

icebike (68054) | more than 4 years ago | (#34235962)

I'm no expert, but since the atmospheric pressure on Mars is so low propellers/balloons etc probably won't work very well.

This guy, Dr. Alexey Pankine, a project scientist at the Global Aerospace Corporation, disagrees. http://www.spacedaily.com/news/mars-balloon-04a.html [spacedaily.com]

Re:Rocket-powered? (5, Interesting)

vlm (69642) | more than 4 years ago | (#34235984)

I'm no expert, but since the atmospheric pressure on Mars is so low propellers/balloons etc probably won't work very well.

Jet engines work pretty well at low pressure with some cooling issues. The killer is you need something that burns in mostly carbon dioxide (liquid fluorine?)

The killer for propellers is its just a rotating airfoil (like a helicopter blade) and the speed of sound drops with density. And classical prop designs are an utter failure when supersonic.

The killer for balloons is a completely different problem, the overall vehicle needs to be less dense than the atmosphere it displaces. Which is just barely possible to do on earth. Not going to work on Mars.

Flying on Mars is non-trivial. See the X-Plane guys

http://www.x-plane.com/adventures/mars.html [x-plane.com]

Re:Rocket-powered? (2, Insightful)

sznupi (719324) | more than 4 years ago | (#34236120)

With all the monthly news on Slashdot of cheap amateur helium-filled balloons reaching 30+ km (conditions similar to Mars) it's suddenly barely possible and definitely won't work? (while we almost did it [wikipedia.org] over a decade ago)

Re:Rocket-powered? (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 4 years ago | (#34236620)

Your definition of work is apparently during a fraction of the attempts, a balloon will temporarily successfully float under ideal circumstances with an extremely small payload. Basically a martian mythbusters stunt. We'll send Kari up for some zero G shots, maybe blow something up purely for the heck of it at the end of the episode. Duct tape, lots of duct tape. Entertaining, but I don't think you can build a space program around it.

My definition of work is somewhat stricter.

Re:Rocket-powered? (1)

sconeu (64226) | more than 4 years ago | (#34236660)

We'll send Kari up for some zero G shots

Please?????

Re:Rocket-powered? (2, Informative)

sznupi (719324) | more than 4 years ago | (#34236708)

"Extremely small"? Just look at payloads quoted - the drone from TFA will most likely carry less (for just an hour)

What didn't work for past attempts was primarily the funding - something the UAV project also has big and longstanding problems with.

Re:Rocket-powered? (1, Funny)

icebike (68054) | more than 4 years ago | (#34236122)

The killer for balloons is a completely different problem, the overall vehicle needs to be less dense than the atmosphere it displaces. Which is just barely possible to do on earth. Not going to work on Mars.

Let me google that for you:

http://lmgtfy.com/?q=ballons+mars+exploration [lmgtfy.com]

Re:Rocket-powered? (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 4 years ago | (#34236496)

Almost, but not quite as useful, as deciding what rocket engine technology to use by googling for "star trek warp engine"

The problem is earth balloon payloads are very small to the point of uselessness, and momentarily just barely top out at the point where a Mars flight would have to begin ...

Re:Rocket-powered? (2, Informative)

icebike (68054) | more than 4 years ago | (#34236630)

Read some of the article found by Google. Most of them written by professionals in the field. They seem to disagree with your assessment.

I'm sure you've heard about balloon flights around the world. Steve Fossett RIP.

Do the math. Less gravity compensates for less atmospheric density on mars to the degree that you would only need a balloon twice as big for the same payload as on earth.

Doable.

Re:Rocket-powered? (1)

Lord Byron II (671689) | more than 4 years ago | (#34236024)

There are two real problems - lack of air and lack of oxygen. No oxygen means that it has to use rockets or electrically spun propellers, since jet engines burn gas and O2. A thin atmosphere means that propellers won't have much grab and even worse, the wings won't generate much lift. This thing is going to be a one-shot deal as there's no way to currently build a drone that can stay aloft indefinitely on Mars.

Re:Rocket-powered? (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 4 years ago | (#34236336)

Lack of external oxygen doesn't preclude ICE, as many torpedoes and some submarines have demonstrated.

Re:Rocket-powered? (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 4 years ago | (#34236066)

The conditions are comparable to 30+km altitude on Earth. Something a balloon can do easily, and we might do it one day [wikipedia.org] , if we cared (glider [wikipedia.org] might do it, so small low-powered UAV certainly)

And TFS is incorrect - at this point ARES explores also propeller propulsion, electric or ICE.

Re:Rocket-powered? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#34236130)

I'm no expert, but since the atmospheric pressure on Mars is so low propellers/balloons etc probably won't work very well.

By the same token, (no, I didn't RTFA) it seems the thin atmosphere would supply little purchase for propellers, nor enough lift to get anything off the ground.

Interesting factoid -- The longest flight in the world of commercial aviation is NY to Johannesburg. A plane can leave NY (at near sea level) and make the flight on a single load of fuel. However, on the way back, the Johannesburg airport is at such an altitude that the fully loaded plane cannot take off in the thin air. Hence, they start with a partial load of fuel and stop en route to top off to make the rest of the trip to NY.

Info from "Ask the Pilot: Everything You Need to Know About Air Travel" [Paperback] Patrick Smith (Author) -- $10.20 at Amazon.

Re:Rocket-powered? (4, Informative)

Caerdwyn (829058) | more than 4 years ago | (#34236326)

Typical Mars surface air pressure varies between 6 and 10 millibars, depending upon season and land altitude. Assuming relatively low altitude flights, it's quite possible to build aircraft that can fly in that density (particularly given that Mars' surface gravity is only about 40% of Earth's). What are the constraints?

1. Velocity. At 6 millibars, you're looking at a near-supersonic speed to stay aloft. Sure, that's not a big deal from a drag perspective when the air is that thin, but your propulsion system has to be able to maintain that. Can propellers do that? Yes. The XF88B [wikipedia.org] could maintain 0.8 Mach.

2. Flutter. Unlike drag, which is heavily dependent upon the product of air density, velocity and drag coefficient, flutter is only really dependent upon airspeed. Think of it as a kind of resonance. As the air flows over the wing, the wing vibrates like a guitar string. Aircraft have literally shaken themselves apart when they hit a critical airspeed; this remains an issue today (example: builders of the Van's Aircraft RV10 are warned about relying upon airspeed indicators if they have a turbocharged or supercharged motor, as at the service ceiling of 18000 feet the absolute airspeed max of around 250 knots will only be shown as 160 knots on most mechanical airspeed indicators... and at 250 knots, you're int he danger zone for flutter). This can be engineered around, though at the airspeeds necessary it won't be easy.

3. Energy. So how do you propel this thing? Unless it's going to be a short mission, chemical propellants are right out (especially given that you need to carry both the fuel AND the oxidizer, as there's no "free" oxygen to be found. Solar-electric is being discussed, and may actually be viable; the plane would probably have to "race the sunset" to stay in sunlight constantly. This is very doable, though. At the equator, Mars has a curcumference of about 13,000 miles. At that size, with a 24.5 hour day, an aircraft would have to maintain a bit over 500mph to stay in sunlight. However, as this is likely to be near the speed necessary just to stay aloft anyway, it's a nonfactor. If you're powered enough to fly, you can stay in sunlight.

Yep. There are problems. But none of it is insurmountable. How much tax increase are you willing to endure (and convince others to endure) to accomplish this? If that number's high enough... yes. It CAN be done, with propellers and lift from wings (as opposed to vectored thrust). The challenges are the power system and overcoming flutter, but these are solvable.

Re:Rocket-powered? (1)

icebike (68054) | more than 4 years ago | (#34235862)

My thinking exactly.

Put the payload on a smallish blimp like thing which you inflate after landing, and can control with solar powered motors.

Include enough helium you could make several significant altitude changes over the course of months instead of minutes.

Winds aloft would somewhat determine your course but that might be something you would want to document anyway.

Let the people who built Spirit and Opportunity build the thing. Those guys build it right.

Re:Rocket-powered? (2, Interesting)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#34236164)

On Earth: The density of air at sea level is about 1.2 kg/m3
Divide by 100 (pressure difference) times 3 (lower gravity) gives 0.03 kg/m^3. Bump it up to 0.1 kg/m^3 because its CO2 (higher density) and lower temperature. So you have 12 times less lifting capability compared to Earth but one third the gravity so you will need four times the volume of the balloon for the same lifting capacity.

I suppose its doable but remember the weather balloon which got away from its handlers in Australia some time back. If this one has to launch from the ground without people holding the wires then there are going to be some problems.

Re:Rocket-powered? (1)

SnarfQuest (469614) | more than 4 years ago | (#34235976)

In order to carry all the necessary chainsaws, shotguns, rocket launchers, ammo, etc. to scatter randomly across the environment for the soldiers to arm themselves with, you need as much cargo capacity as you can get. A low powered cargo vessel just cannot handle the mass.

You mean people fly to Hawaii via Mars? (1)

Fibe-Piper (1879824) | more than 4 years ago | (#34235636)

The official US Gov't statement will still be that its people flying to Hawaii and not a drone.

But... (1)

msauve (701917) | more than 4 years ago | (#34235640)

if we find life on Mars, will we strip-search it before letting it on board?

Re:But... (1)

ChunderDownunder (709234) | more than 4 years ago | (#34236074)

Wrong planet, dude. Women are from Venus.

Re:But... (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 4 years ago | (#34236852)

Ah, that must be where the term 'hotties' came from.

A letter missing from the acronym (5, Funny)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 4 years ago | (#34235668)

Aerial Regional-Scale Environment Surveyor (ARES)

Even NASA has trolls apparently

X-prize my ass! (1)

Thud457 (234763) | more than 4 years ago | (#34236018)

I pledge 15 quatloos towards erection of the first permanent goatse on Mars!

ARSES (5, Funny)

CosmicRabbit (1505129) | more than 4 years ago | (#34235680)

The acronym for Aerial Regional-Scale Environment Surveyor should instead be read as ARSES... Which kinda fits for a mission looking for methane emissions and germs.

Re:ARSES (1)

Anomalyx (1731404) | more than 4 years ago | (#34235910)

So NASA is spending who knows how much money on sending their A.R.S.E.S to Mars to look for the same gas that comes out of their arses.
Your tax dollars at work, people.

Re:ARSES (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 4 years ago | (#34236858)

Get your ass to Mars!

Re:ARSES (1)

noidentity (188756) | more than 4 years ago | (#34236612)

I remember our geometry teacher in high school saying that we would fail the test if we called the Side-Side-Angle [wikipedia.org] triangle congruence condition, SSA, by the acronym for the alternate name for it, Angle-Side-Side.

Re:ARSES (1)

demonbug (309515) | more than 4 years ago | (#34236808)

The acronym for Aerial Regional-Scale Environment Surveyor should instead be read as ARSES... Which kinda fits for a mission looking for methane emissions and germs.

I heard they're planning on expanding mission capabilities by putting the new Planetary Exploration Nanoscale Integrated Spectrometer into the ARSES, but there is some question whether the Republican-led House will approve the additional funding necessary to fully couple the two projects.

Any time soon? (3, Interesting)

fructose (948996) | more than 4 years ago | (#34235684)

Not likely. This project has been around for several years now. Here's [foxnews.com] a story where they hope to get DARPA to pay for it. And it's was already around for years before that. The problem with it? Real time control. The plane would have to be able to direct it's own flight and research with minimal input from Earth becasue of the time lag in commands. Controlling a Global Hawk or Predator from half way around the world isn't tough. Flying a UAV on another planet? That's tough. Look what happened to poor Spirit [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Any time soon? (1)

icebike (68054) | more than 4 years ago | (#34235918)

You mean "Look what happened to poor Spirit" FIVE AND A HALF YEARS beyond its expected 90 day life span?

I'll take that ROI anytime.

Re:Any time soon? (1)

Brett Buck (811747) | more than 4 years ago | (#34235964)

I think you misunderstand the issue. While it may be possible, very little if any drone flying (Predator, etc) is really live hand-flying of the airplane. You put in waypoints, tell it the altitude to fly, tell it to orbit about a point, etc, and the airplane does the actual flying. That's how the vast majority of airline flying works, too. In the case of the Mars airplane, it's actually a lot easier than a ground vehicle, since there are no obstacles aside from mountains, etc, that are already identified (and terrain avoidance technology is quite mature if you miss entering a hill in the database).

      The only real problem is the power source, since it's not going to landing. That's where this project (and most other Mars airplane projects) seem to run in to trouble.

          Brett

Re:Any time soon? (1)

Sta7ic (819090) | more than 4 years ago | (#34236028)

Dust storms?

Re:Any time soon? (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 4 years ago | (#34236128)

You put in waypoints, tell it the altitude to fly, tell it to orbit about a point .... The only real problem is the power source, since it's not going to landing.

That, and the lack of a GPS constellation. Admittedly they could probably do "well enough" with inertial and ranging against the orbiter. And not much of a magnetic field for the compass. Gyros to the rescue, and I'm not talking about a greek sandwich. And the dust storms getting in the way of the star tracker.

Re:Any time soon? (1)

Brett Buck (811747) | more than 4 years ago | (#34236358)

All of the current drones rely primarily on an inertial reference (gyros and accelerometers) for short-term control. It uses GPS to provide updates to the system to correct for drift. That would work perfectly well with Sun and satellite ranging from existing satellites.

Re:Any time soon? (1)

Nyeerrmm (940927) | more than 4 years ago | (#34236020)

From what I know, the parts where you have to keep a human in the loop on terrestrial UAVs is not on basic piloting, but for redirecting it to new stations, checking targets, keeping airspaces clear, etc.

Most of these 'hard thing's for terrestrial UAVs wouldn't apply to a scientific vehicle on another planet. As for the basic piloting and station-keeping tasks, all of the military UAV research would actually make an ARES-type much easier (assuming the pertinent data can be de-classified).

Re:Any time soon? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#34236818)

Thank you. This is the real problem of the mission. Without more advanced telerobotics, we can't hope to send a uav to another planet. Not unless it could run its own objectives without human guidance, and /not/ crash into a mountain.

Hunt down Martian Terrorists! (0, Flamebait)

lp_bugman (623152) | more than 4 years ago | (#34235694)

Make no mistake, the United States will hunt them down. -- Bush

Re:Hunt down Martian Terrorists! (1)

MyLongNickName (822545) | more than 4 years ago | (#34235722)

This joke gets funnier with every passing year. ~

Re:Hunt down Martian Terrorists! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#34235936)

It's funny because it's true!

Re:Hunt down Martian Terrorists! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#34236206)

Strange, this one's [theonion.com] no longer funny because it's true.

Levine doesn't work on the ARES plane itself? (1)

scdeimos (632778) | more than 4 years ago | (#34235736)

FTA, these statements seem kind of nullifying:

"What the airplane gives is mobility, because we can travel 500 miles an hour anywhere," he said.

The ARES plane continues to be modified at NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va. Here, the plane is tested in wind tunnels to withstand winds of up to 100 mph.

Oops, I guess the plane tears itself apart.

Re:Levine doesn't work on the ARES plane itself? (1)

millennial (830897) | more than 4 years ago | (#34235814)

... What? Current airplanes move at hundreds of miles per hour, but a 100-mile-per-hour wind could easily take them out of commission. Are you confusing wind and air resistance?

Re:Levine doesn't work on the ARES plane itself? (1)

biryokumaru (822262) | more than 4 years ago | (#34235830)

The atmosphere on Mars is much less dense, and it's almost possible these rocket scientists took that into account by testing with lower winds speeds on Earth.

Re:Levine doesn't work on the ARES plane itself? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#34235868)

Or they're testing a full-scale model in one of their low speed wind tunnels and this is just another example of shitty science reporting. It is important to note that the atmosphere on Mars is significantly thinner than the one here on Earth, and wind tunnel testing usually uses Reynolds number as a similarity parameter rather than velocity, so it's completely possible that 100 mph in their wind tunnel is equivalent to 500 mph flight somewhere on Mars.

Re:Levine doesn't work on the ARES plane itself? (1)

rts008 (812749) | more than 4 years ago | (#34235994)

Ooops, it looks like you forgot the difference between Earth and Martian atmospheric densities.

Too lazy/disinterested to do the math, but a 100mph Martian wind has considerably less force/energy than a 100 mph Earth wind.

Re:Levine doesn't work on the ARES plane itself? (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 4 years ago | (#34236096)

Google for the difference between indicated air speed and ground speed. Thats the first problem.

The second problem is the X-Plane simulator guys claim that indicated air speed of about 50 miles per hour (referenced to earth sea level equivalent pressure) is about the same as 500 miles per hour actual air speed on Mars.

http://www.x-plane.com/adventures/mars.html [x-plane.com]

"First of all, the atmosphere is ONE PERCENT as thick on Mars as it is on earth... INDICATED airspeed is proportional the the square root of the air density, so the INDICATED airspeed is ONE TENTH the true airspeed."

So your ground speed has approximately nothing to do with your airspeed due to high winds. Then the low air pressure means on Mars it aerodynamically behaves like its about 1/10 earth air speed.

So the wind tunnel at 100 mph earth pressure provides the same feel as a plane flying 1000 mph Mars pressure. Then add some nice head or tail winds...

I want a Mars ballloon/blimp (2, Interesting)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | more than 4 years ago | (#34235738)

Yeah, I'm sure it's not practical, but Mars apparently has some jaw-dropping vistas. I'd love to see a robotic blimp traversing the planet snapping pictures.

Differences in atmosphere (1)

falldeaf (968657) | more than 4 years ago | (#34235744)

It's interesting that they tested the rocket in earth atmosphere, wouldn't it be pretty different on mars? I'd give them the benefit of the doubt though based on their success with the rover missions...

Re:Differences in atmosphere (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 4 years ago | (#34235828)

It's interesting that they tested the rocket in earth atmosphere, wouldn't it be pretty different on mars?

The only real difference is air pressure. That difference is well understood. They can compensate by enlarging the nozzle exhaust bell by a known amount.

Re:Differences in atmosphere (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#34235990)

You can test at high altitude on Earth, possibly by deploying the aircraft from a balloon.

Re:Differences in atmosphere (1)

falldeaf (968657) | more than 4 years ago | (#34236038)

You can test at high altitude on Earth, possibly by deploying the aircraft from a balloon.

After reading through the ares page this is dead on: "September 19, 2002 flight test in Mars relevant conditions: Autonomous deployment and flight from 103,500 feet " - There's a pic of it but that would be an awesome video to see.

what about the martian atmosphere? (1)

spyked (1878060) | more than 4 years ago | (#34235774)

Wouldn't that be a bit rough for such a drone? And by that I mean: flying in such conditions is rougher than flying a 747 in Earth's atmosphere. How will they be able to come out with something efficient for this problem? Just wondering.

Great news for kids (1)

trollertron3000 (1940942) | more than 4 years ago | (#34235798)

Just imagine being the first kid on your block to fly a UAV on Mars, find life, and kill it..

HK's on Mars (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#34235826)

"Aerial Drone To Hunt For Life On Mars"

Did anyone else get this image in their heads of Martians running for their lives while being attacked by drones.

IF IT CAN FIND BIN LADEN DO YOU REALLY THINK (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#34235864)

ut'll find martians ?? Hmmmm ??

Not Likely (1)

boxxa (925862) | more than 4 years ago | (#34235932)

With all the drones and rovers we have sent there, I fell like something would have shown up and wondered WTF that silver thing thats driving around is. Intelligent life is random in the galaxy based on a lot of theories. I personally think we should stick to that and come up with ways to find resources we can harvest on other planets then trying to build a Moon or Marse base. Bringing back massive ships of minerals and compounds from the moon, mars and other nearby planets is a lot closer than the idea of surviving millions of miles from Earth.

Ariel Drones already hunt for life... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#34235942)

on Earth. And exterminate it.

Landing (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#34235958)

ARES will be pre-programmed to land on Mars. Once ARES has landed,

TFA doesn't say how they will get the vehicle on the ground but I am willing to bet it won't glide to an unpowered landing. More likely it will carry a small airbag or powered descent lander but I doubt it will be able to carry enough payload for a lander which can last a long time on the surface.

It's already been done! AMEE had one! (1)

Virtucon (127420) | more than 4 years ago | (#34235974)

"Red Planet" already had AMEE (Autonomous Mapping, Evaluation and Evasion) and it had an aerial reconnaissance drone. It's right over there next to the Soviet Lander... I wish NASA would come up with something new and innovative rather than copying... It was on A&E this weekend..

"Fuck This Planet" was surreptitiously edited out.. .Fucking A&E...

Re:It's already been done! AMEE had one! (1)

icebike (68054) | more than 4 years ago | (#34236054)

Yeah AMEE worked out great did't it.

One wonders what AMEE was supposed to evade?

wow (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#34235982)

this is old news

this project has been in the wings for a long time

have you been living in a cave on mars for the past dacade?

Are they still looking (2, Funny)

ArhcAngel (247594) | more than 4 years ago | (#34236112)

Are they finally expanding their search for Bin Laden?

call me when it happens (1)

Osgeld (1900440) | more than 4 years ago | (#34236172)

cause I am still waiting on the space plane

Silly (1)

anglophobe_0 (1383785) | more than 4 years ago | (#34236284)

I'm not saying we shouldn't investigate the universe, and media probably makes it sound worse than it is, but is looking for life on other planets really a good use of taxpayer dollars? I mean, what evidence do we have that suggests there may be life on other planets? Having said all that, I'm all for finding out more about Mars, and verifying its viability for colonization. I just think trying to find ET is pretty dumb.

Titan airplane concept is a lot more interesting (1)

MacAnkka (1172589) | more than 4 years ago | (#34236322)

There's been some talk about the possibility of sending an airplane to Titan, the Saturn's biggest moon and I it sounds a lot more interesting and practical than a plane on mars.

For one, Mars's atmosphere is very thin, making flying in there very hard. You're going to need big wings to stay in the air and controlling it is going to be delicate. Titan, on the other hand, has a very thick and dense atmosphere, allowing for a lot smaller craft and easier manouverability. That also lowers the power requirements for the propulsion, so it could be quite feasibly be powered by a ASRG [wikipedia.org] giving it a flight time of years.

There are a lot of other very good points, too, but instead of writing about them myself, I'll just post a link to a cool blog that explains most of it quite well: http://futureplanets.blogspot.com/2010/06/aviatr-titan-plane-details.html [blogspot.com]

Here's a very informative presentation about it, too http://vimeo.com/11432536 [vimeo.com]

craters? (1)

eleuthero (812560) | more than 4 years ago | (#34236460)

I am sure there is a reason that we are exploring plains and minor asteroid-impact craters thus far in our adventuring on Mars. Could someone help out with why we aren't going into the major volcano craters? Aren't they a more likely source for residual warmth and significant levels of the right chemicals for life (I'm thinking of earth's sulfur bacteria)?
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