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Future Tech: Martian Airships

13 Sep 2019, 14:58 UTC
Future Tech: Martian Airships
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The Martian atmosphere offers a unique opportunity in the Solar System to exploit vacuum as a lifting agent, because it is mostly cold, heavy carbon dioxide, but at a low overall pressure. Image credit: All About Space/Adrian Mann
While the Martian rovers Spirit, Opportunity and Curiosity have explored further afield than ever before, the process is frustratingly slow. Curiosity’s top speed is only 200 metres per day, partly due to the difficulty of controlling a robot with a 20-minute round trip communications delay, limiting the reach of our exploration. Numerous proposals have been put forward, for various bodies in the Solar System, for flying probes of various kinds. Free flying balloons (which have been deployed on Venus), dirigible airships, gliders and even hopping probes that jump across terrain; but NASA’s airship study is unique, it will fly on a vacuum lift.
Balloons and airships float in an atmosphere by displacing some of the atmosphere with something lighter; just like the way boats float by displacing (with their hulls) water for air (the space inside their hulls). On Earth we have mostly used either hot air (where the air inside the balloon becomes lighter than the surrounding air as it heats ...

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