Robot Airplanes Could Unlock Mars Mysteries

Various orbiters, landers and rovers that have explored Mars in the past three decades have revealed tantalizing evidence of the conditions for life, from frozen water at the planet’s North Pole to methane plumes in the atmosphere. For atmospheric scientist Joel Levine, the evidence has made the case for flying an airplane over Mars stronger than ever.
Levine champions the ARES Mars airplane mission at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va. He believes that a robotic, rocket-powered airplane is the perfect platform for unraveling the Red Planet’s biggest mysteries.
Soaring at an altitude of 1.6 kilometers, an airplane could cover hundreds of kilometers, gathering visual images and remote sensing data that it transmits back to Earth.