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NASA Students Fly Prototype of Potential Mars Airplane

Some interns get coffee. Others might make copies. Not at NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center in California, where a group of students successfully flew a prototype of an aircraft that could one day fly in the Martian atmosphere and send its findings back to Earth.

Called the Preliminary Research Aerodynamic Design to Land on Mars, or Prandtl-M, the small, remotely piloted glider aircraft flew Aug. 11 at Armstrong. It continues an effort that began last year with a mostly different group of students.

Derek Abramson, from left, Justin Hall, and Alexander Flock position the Prandtl-M glider aircraft onto the Carbon Cub that drops it from 500 feet altitude.
Credits: NASA Photo / Lauren Hughes

Emerson Baker and Caitlin Kennedy check out the Prandtl-M before a test flight.
Credits: NASA Photo / Lauren Hughes
 

“The first successful flights felt like a huge relief,” said John Bodylski, a mechanical engineering student at Irvine Valley College in California. “While we still plan to perfect the design, it is a pretty exciting feeling to realize that the aircraft is working. At first I didn't believe it and had to rewatch the footage from the flight.”

Bodylski is participating in a NASA student program aimed at developing skills learned at school and applying those abilities to a research challenge. The NASA Flight Scholars activity, which focuses on giving community college students an early opportunity to perform research, and the Education Unmanned Aerial Systems activity, which provides college students an opportunity to work on NASA UAS projects, are key components of the Prandtl-M team.

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