Flying 100,000 feet above the Oregon coast yesterday, a new kind of aircraft demonstrated the readiness of robotic airplane technology for Mars exploration. The MarsFlyer, designed and manufactured by Aurora Flight Sciences Corporation, Manassas, Va., is a one-half scale prototype of a NASA aircraft that may one day soar over the red planet returning unique science knowledge on Mars’ atmosphere, surface, and interior. Today’s flight was the first in a series of high-altitude tests confirming the aircraft’s ability to deploy its wings and tail, and demonstrate aerodynamic performance. Led by the NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., Aurora is part of a team of industry, academia, and national laboratories working for the past three years to prepare robotic aircraft technology for scientific application on Mars.
September 20th, 2002