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The Sky-Sailor is a plane that contains solar cells on its wings, developed by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich. It is hoped it will be able to search the Martian surface and even send pictures back to Earth. The reason the Sky-Sailor would have a bigger advantage over other Martian rovers is because it can scan the Martian surface without touching it at any point, which removes many hazards and high energy costs. If this project goes on successfully, it should be able to take detailed pictures of Mars, especially in places where NASA's rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, cannot go.
The challenge for the developers was to make a very light weight model. So far, that goal has been reached. After that, an autopilot had to be installed so a non-stop autonomous flight for 24 hours could be achieved. All this was tested with a scale model in a wind tunnel.
The Sky-Sailor has a wingspan of about 3.2 meters and it weighs approximately 2.5 kilograms. Looking at aerodynamic studies, the power needed for the aircraft to fly at a low altitude is about 13.2 watts.
In 2007 a solar powered prototype made two flights totalling 10 hours. With a new battery, in 2008 it flew for 27 hours.
Mission To Mars
The aircraft would be carried to Mars in a small aeroshell and that would be attached to a carrier spacecraft.[when?] Once the spacecraft has reached Mars, the aeroshell would be directly released into the Martian atmosphere.
- Greggs, Jessica. "Solar-powered plane will gaze down on Mars.(TECHNOLOGY)(Technical report)(Brief article)." New Scientist (January 2009): n. pag. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 12 October 2009.
- "Mission to Mars." Swiss News 3 Mar. 2004: 1+. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 14 Oct. 2009.
- Noth, A, et al. "SKY-SAILORDESIGN OF AN AUTONOMOUS SOLAR POWERED MARTIAN AIRPLANE." Sky-Sailor. Autonomous Systems Lab, n.d. Web. 14 Oct. 2009. <http://asl.epfl.ch/aslInternalWeb/ ASL/publications/uploadedFiles/ Sky-Sailor-Paper-Final.pdf+sky-sailor&cd=2&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us>.