AVIATION ON MARS
Paul G. Swift
The thin atmosphere of MarsŐ 'sea level' is the equivalent to Earth atmosphere at about 130,000 feet. This presents challenges and opportunities for us to design a manned Martian aircraft.
There are four main possibilities for flight vehicles: conventional propeller aircraft, helicopter, dirigible, and reaction engine craft. Each design has its merits and detractions. But all are possible, and could all be accommodated in a mature planetary transport infrastructure.
One design is selected, the reconnaisance aircraft. It has three crew, medium range, propellers for thrust, and remote take-off and landing capability. It can perform Search and Rescue, resupply of outposts, topographical and resource mapping, filming and data gathering, rock sampling, and ground truthing.
As a key element in a concentrated exploration plan, even one such aircraft would multiply the field capability of the early Martian explorers manyfold. The crew will be able to get close-in visual contact with terrain features and geological phenomenon not otherwise possible.
The author is currently in the preliminary design stages of building a Mark I manned experimental vehicle for Earth deployment. Configuration, propulsion, and equipment needs are being weighed against a tight budget. System design constraints will be discussed.