This titanium boomerang is actually an aircraft NASA wants to soar over Mars

In case you haven’t noticed, NASA is dead-set on putting a man on Mars. A manned mission to the Red Planet is easier said than done though, and apparently, studying the atmospheric and geological conditions of Mars isn’t enough. An aerial survey of the planet is necessary before NASA feels comfortable sending a manned mission there, so the agency has recently unveiled plans to send an aircraft to Mars in hopes of scoping out possible landing sites for a future human missions.

The aircraft, dubbed Prandtl-m, could be the first man-made vehicle to fly on Mars. Scientists at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center have already developed a prototype of the Prandtl-m, which they are currently subjecting to test flights. At first glance, it looks like a giant titanium boomerang.

The Prandtl-m will have a wingspan of 24 inches when deployed, and will be made out of fiberglass and carbon fiber. Weighing in at just under a pound, its current prototype is rather lightweight, but the Martian version of the aircraft could weigh up to 2.6 pounds. That said, given the fact that Mars has significantly less gravity than Earth the added weight will not hamper the aircraft’s ability to fly, but instead allow the aircraft to carry more cameras, sensors, and other on-board equipment.

NASA Photo/Ken Ulbrich

NASA is currently conducting high altitude tests on the Prandtl-m to see if it can fly under thin atmospheric conditions. As a part of this test, they’ll send the aircraft up on a balloon that will ferry it upward to an altitude of 100,000 feet, to simulate what it would be like to fly in Martian airspace. Future tests will take the Prandtl-m even higher to 450,000 feet.

If the test flights prove successful, the Prandtl-m will be folded up and carried inside the spacecraft that will carry the next rover to Mars in the early 2020s. Once the rover mission reaches the Martian atmosphere, the Prandtl-m will automatically deploy itself over the planet and glide for 20 miles, collecting various data and clicking high-resolution photos of the martian terrain.

Even though a manned mission to the Mars will not happen anytime soon, a man made vehicle flying in the Martian atmosphere would definitely be a significant achievement.

Product Review

The Division 2 brings the most fun we've ever had to Washington, D.C.

After 55 hours with The Division 2, it’s clear that Ubisoft has improved on the original in almost every way. The world is richly detailed, the story missions are wonderful, gunplay and enemy design are great, and the endgame content is…
Emerging Tech

A lunar time capsule: 50-year-old moon rock samples to be opened for study

Nearly 50 years after the Apollo missions to the Moon, NASA is breaking open samples of Moon rock for the first time. Samples collected from Apollo missions 15, 16, and 17 have been preserved and never before exposed to Earth's atmosphere.
Emerging Tech

Opportunity’s final image is a haunting panorama of the Martian surface

The Opportunity mission to Mars may be no more, but the rover's legacy lives on. Now NASA has released the final image captured by Opportunity, and it's a stunning panorama of the Martian surface.

Adventurous and electric, Porsche’s second station wagon will arrive in 2020

The Mission E Cross Turismo concept Porsche unveiled during the 2018 Geneva Auto Show will morph into a production model tentatively named Taycan Cross Turismo. This 600-horsepower electric station wagon will arrive in showrooms by 2021.
Emerging Tech

Take a dip in the Lagoon Nebula in first image from SPECULOOS instrument

The European Southern Observatory has released the first image collected by their new SPECULOOS instrument, and it's a stunning portrait of the Lagoon Nebula, a swirling cloud of dust and gas where new stars are born.
Emerging Tech

Robot assistants from Toyota and Panasonic gear up for the Tokyo Olympics

Japan plans to use the 2020 Olympics to showcase a range of its advanced technologies. Toyota and Panasonic are already getting in on the act, recently unveiling several robotic designs that they intend to deploy at the event.
Emerging Tech

A.I.-generated text is supercharging fake news. This is how we fight back

A new A.I. tool is reportedly able to spot passages of text written by algorithm. Here's why similar systems might prove essential in a world of fake news created by smart machines.
Emerging Tech

Racing to catch a flight? Robot valet at French airport will park your car

Hate searching for parking at the airport when you need to catch a plane? Startup Stanley Robotics recently unveiled a new outdoor automated robotic valet system. Here's how it works.

Bags with brains: Smart luggage and gadgets are making travel smoother

The bag you use to tote your stuff can affect the experience of any trip. In response, suitcases are wising up, and there are now options for smart luggage with scales, tracking, and more. Here are our favorite pieces.

At $99, Nvidia’s Jetson Nano minicomputer seeks to bring robotics to the masses

Nvidia announced a new A.I. computer, the Jetson Nano. This computer comes with an 128-core GPU that Nvidia claims can handle pretty much any A.I. framework you could imagine. At $99, it's an affordable way for A.I. newbies to get involved.

Nvidia’s A.I. Playground lets you edit photos, experience deep learning research

Nvidia is making it easier to access information on deep learning research. It has launched an online space with three demos for image editing, styling, as well as photorealistic image synthesis. 

British Airways’ new Club Suite for business class comes with a door

British Airways is going after a bigger slice of the business class market with the imminent launch of the Club Suite. The plush seating option offers a more private space as well as an easier route to the bathroom.
Smart Home

Sony’s Aibo robot dog can now patrol your home for persons of interest

Sony released the all-new Aibo in the U.S. around nine months ago, and since then the robot dog has (hopefully) been melting owners' hearts with its cute looks and clever tricks. Now it has a new one up its sleeve.
Emerging Tech

Inflating smart pills could be a painless alternative to injections

Could an inflating pill containing hidden microneedles replace painful injections? The creators of the RaniPill robotic capsule think so — and they have the human trials to prove it.