An amazing plane will search for water in the Mars’ atmosphere

NASA scientists are creating an amazing MAGGIE aircraft, which they plan to deliver to Mars and use there. The mission is primarily aimed at finding water and markers of life on the red planet.

Martian MAGGIE airplane. Source: Ge-Cheng Zha

New plane for Mars

The new MAGGIE unmanned aircraft will search for water on Mars, being in the upper layers of the planet’s atmosphere. The project to create it has just received the first tranche of funding from NASA and is at the very beginning of a long journey to space. 

It’s too early to talk about the time of the project, but unmanned flying vehicles have proven themselves well on Mars. The Ingenuity helicopter has already completed more than 70 flights and is still operating. It is now helping its partner, the Perseverance rover, to search for water and life on the planet. 

MAGGIE, the Mars Aerial and Ground Intelligent Explorer, is a solar-powered aircraft designed for vertical takeoff and landing. Its technical description indicates that it can fly 179 km on a single charge, and in one Martian year, which is about 24 months on Earth, it will be able to cover almost 16 thousand km.

Flying at an altitude of 1000 meters above the Red Planet, MAGGIE will focus on three scientific studies: the search for water, a better understanding of the source of Mars’ weak magnetic field, and the search for signals of elusive methane (which may or may not be a signal of life, depending on the source). 

Challenges in the way of mission implementation

The caveat with MAGGIE is that the technology is at an early stage of development, chief researcher Ge-Cheng Zha of Coflow Jet wrote in the mission’s technical notes. Although the concept seems feasible, he calls for further research in the Martian atmosphere. 

Securing funding for the first phase of the program will allow the concept to continue to be implemented. One day, the plane will be useful for large-scale research. According to Zha, MAGGIE will “revolutionize our capability of exploring almost the entirety of the Martian surface and” get a lot of public engagement due to its “audacity, and in the variety of environments it could explore, study and image.”

Funding MAGGIE as part of NASA’s innovative concepts does not necessarily guarantee a future flight date, but there are other rovers that may soon go to Mars — until funding issues are resolved.

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