How Light Propelled Robots Will Fly in the Wafer Thin Atmosphere of Mars?

Sunny Samanta

3rd May'21

Sir Issac Newton once said after falling off an apple, “What goes up must come down.” Today, we know it as the universal law of gravitation. However, little did he tell us about which one is the hardest part – Going up or coming down? This is something on which the aerodynamics engineer seems to have a lot of say who study more in-depth about this phenomenon. They have stated that since the atmosphere on earth is denser than many other planets we can send aloft objects into space. These objects can be large enough to ideally be anchored to the earth through gravity simply with the help of engineering based on certain physics principles. Therefore, they believe that going up is the hardest part of the two.


Wafer thin atmosphere of Mars


The Four Physical Forces

Even MIT has stated that lift, drag, weight, and thrust are the four physical forces that can make “heavier than air flight” possible with some careful balancing processes. For flight, the object must balance its weight while ensuring that its thrust is more than its drag. This object whether it is an aircraft or a plane will use its designed wings for lifting and its engine for generating thrust. Both drag and weight of the flying object are maintained by the shape of it and the materials used in its constructions respectively.


Propelling Robots into the Wafer Thin Atmosphere of Mars

Now that we have an idea about how an object can be made to fly irrespective of its weight and other characteristics involved, there are plans to send objects to the wafer thin atmosphere of Mars. But since the wafer thin atmosphere of Mars is almost 100 times thinner than that on earth, the sent objects can behave differently there. These objects when lifted onto this red planet will possibly keep wandering along with its surface level and till it hits something on the ground level. This is also due to the lack of support on the air on Mars that prevents most winged aircraft from getting aloft there. However, several researchers have suggested that buoyancy based flights could be an alternative. But since they are classified as “lighter than air flights'' they have been ruled out as a possibility as well.


Self levitating robots


This brought researchers to approaching a different route. One of them is using robots instead of sending any kind of flight. These robots can be levitated off the ground on light instead of the metallic Martian angels combined with the sun drenched gossamer wings. For this, a team of researchers had worked together to develop a light driven levitating technique. This technique is designed to allow the tiny robot aircraft to fly on the light itself. These researchers who belong to the University of Pennsylvania were primarily designed to solve the aircraft flight problems in the earth’s mesosphere.


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A lone wolf by definition, a writer by heart, and a lost star with ambitions to light up the dark both inside and around me, sometimes by immersing myself into books or video games or traveling with a backpack to an uncertain destination believing that life is all about the choices we make and we don't.


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