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MIT Mars Airplane Project  

Overview | Quick Facts | Latest News

Mission Overview

The Mars Airplane project was originally conceived by NASA to launch in 2003 to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the Wright Brothers' historic flight. It would fly a robotic airplane over the Valles Marineris canyon system, sending video & data back to earth. Originally conceived as a "micromission" in the NASA/JPL Mars Exploration program, its funding was eventually given to the 2003 Mars Network project, to send a communications satellite for use by future missions.

However, the Mars Airplane project has been recently resurrected by students working at MIT aided by international volunteers from The Mars Society. This team hopes to fulfill the original goal of the NASA effort, to fly a robotic airplane in the 2003 launch opportunity.


Mars Airplane

MIT Mars Airplane Project ( or

Mars Airplane - Langley Research Center
(old NASA Project site)

The NewsWire: Mars Airplane
New!28-Feb-2004 - Using gravity to get off the ground (Machine Design)
Here's a good trick: The gravityplane, brainchild of inventor Robert Hunter, will be able to change its density from lighter-than-air to heavier-than-air. The aircraft, still in development, will be similar to a submarine that changes its buoyancy, a form of gravity, to float on the surface of the sea or cruise 300 ft below it. If the design pans out, the plane won't need any fossil fuel and will have a virtually unlimited range.
17-Feb-2004 - NASA Eyes Plane for Mars Survey (Discovery News)
While Spirit and Opportunity inch along the surface of Mars, engineers are working on a future robotic scout that trades in wheels for wings. Project ARES, which is both the Greek name for Mars as well as NASA's acronym for the Aerial Regional-scale Environmental Survey, was a candidate for the agency's first Mars Scout mission — a competitive, low-cost, highly focused science mission intended to enhance the agency's overall Mars exploration program. Managers opted for a lander instead of the airplane for the first Scout flight opportunity in 2007.
11-Feb-2004 - Robot balloons could explore Mars (BBC)
Remote-controlled balloons carrying armies of mini-robots could be filling Mars' skies if a project by Californian scientists takes off. Nasa-funded researchers are developing the StratoSail, a balloon with a wing, that can be accurately steered through Mars' winds for months.
28-Jan-2004 - Swiss plan new mission to Mars (swissinfo)
While a United States spacecraft roams the surface of Mars, Swiss experts are involved in a new Mars mission being considered by the European Space Agency (ESA). Dubbed Sky-Sailor, the project involves designing a solar-powered plane that would fly around the red planet.
28-Jan-2004 - Swiss scientists bid to fly plane on Mars (SpaceDaily)
Scientists in Switzerland are developing an ultra-lightweight plane which could soar through the skies of Mars in about a decade's time, with the help of balsa wood and model aircraft knowhow. The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL) chose the small solar-powered, "intelligent", glider as a low-cost but high technology project for the European Space Agency's (ESA) "Startiger III" technology programme, scientist Samir Bouabdallah said Wednesday.
14-Dec-2003 - What's next? Futurists think big -- or small (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Morphing planes that change shape as they fly. Solar-powered aircraft that stay aloft for months. Insect-like robots flapping gossamer wings in the cold thin air of Mars. Elevators to Earth orbit. Affordable family weekends in space hotels. Aerial warfare among squadrons of pilotless drones. Flying spycams no bigger than mosquitoes. Jumbo jets with a thousand passengers. Hypersonic flights from New York to London in under an hour. The future of flight or merely flights of fancy?
10-Dec-2003 - Aircraft for Other Worlds (
Future planetary exploration may draw upon a rich history of aeronautical progress here on Earth -- from the Wright Brothers to centuries-old hot-air ballooning. Space engineers are charting novel ways to investigate Mars and other worlds in our solar system with innovative research underway to design robotic aerial craft that can plumb the atmospheric depths of Titan, a moon of Saturn, even slice through the clouds of Venus, or glide over the outer-planet gas giants.
18-Oct-2003 - Flying Humans: Interview with David Glover (Astrobiology Magazine)
Prototype gliders for long-distance flying on Mars have reached their testing phase. A seasoned soaring guide and former President of the US Hang Gliding Association, David Glover, talks about the challenges of soaring on Earth and potentially elsewhere.
16-Oct-2003 - ABQ tech firm wins $600K NASA grant (New Mexico Business Weekly)
Albuquerque-based Adherent Technologies Inc. has received a two-year, $600,000 NASA grant for work on inflatable wings for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) under Phase II of the space agency's Small Business Technology Transfer Research program. The UAV inflatable wings are like automobile airbags. When UAV shoots out of a cannon-like device, the lightweight wings pop out and provide increased gliding stability. UAVs with these inflatable wings could eventually be used for exploration of Mars and Venus, as well as for military applications.
13-Oct-2003 - NASA Research Team Successfully Flies First Laser-Powered Aircraft (SpaceDaily)
Ever since the dawn of powered flight, it has been necessary for all aircraft to carry onboard fuel - whether in the form of batteries, fuel, solar cells, or even a human "engine" - in order to stay aloft. But a team of researchers from NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards, Calif., and the University of Alabama in Huntsville is trying to change that.
2-Sep-2003 - From Australia to Mars? (The Age)
Mars mania has subsided for most of us, but it's just beginning for one Australian National University scientist. Dr Javaan Chahl heads for California's Mojave Desert this week where he will demonstrate to NASA a prototype of what he hopes will be the future in planetary exploration. So far, mobile exploration of other worlds has been restricted to the Apollo moon buggies of the 1970s and unmanned Mars rovers like 1997's Sojourner. But ground-based exploration is slow and has limited range. The next generation of robotic explorers will soar in the pink Martian skies to pick out ground sites of interest.
5-Aug-2003 - Langley's plane is not Mars-bound (The Virginian-Pilot)
NASA Langley's unmanned airplane will not soar across Mars. In a phone call Monday morning, scientists at Langley Research Center in Hampton learned that the ARES plane was not chosen as part of the Mars Scout mission, possibly because of the Columbia shuttle disaster. I'm really shocked and disappointed that it's not ARES,'' said Joel S. Levine, principal investigator for the Mars airplane. They did point out the reason we weren't selected was due to circumstances beyond our control, in part, NASA's growing concern with reducing risk.''
4-Aug-2003 - Langley Mars plane not NASA's top choice (Daily Press)
NASA Langley Research Center was passed over today for a $325 million project to send a spacecraft to Mars in 2007. NASA announced that it had selected a Mars lander proposed by the University of Arizona in Tucson. The Langley proposal, called the Aerial Regional-scale Environmental Survey, or ARES, would have been the first plane to fly on another planet. A NASA official called Joel S. Levine, the proposal's principal investigator at Langley, to tell him the Mars plane idea won't fly in 2007.
30-Jun-2003 - Students Learn About Virginia Designed Mars Airplane (My Wise County)
A small airplane is being designed to fly in the alien atmosphere over the mountainous terrain of Mars in a project known as the Aerial Regional-scale Environmental Survey (ARES) at the NASA Langley Research Center. The ARES aircraft would be the first plane to fly in the atmosphere of another planet if it is successful in both its August selection by NASA Headquarters and its 2007 launch, 7-month, 250-million mile journey, and 2008 entry into the Martian atmosphere.
19-May-2003 - Innovative Wing Design Could Soar in Martian Skies (Space News)
A team of undergraduate engineering students from the University of Kentucky scored a partial success in a recent test of a prototype Mars exploration aircraft whose wings would inflate to take on their aerodynamic shape once within the thin martian atmosphere. Inflatable wings are seen as a promising solution for a vexing problem facing NASA engineers: building an aircraft that can be successfully unfurled or unfolded into its flight configuration after being stowed within the tight confines of a space capsule for the long journey to the red planet. The problem has twice abruptly halted NASA efforts to develop a glider or powered aircraft to explore Mars.
16-May-2003 - Martian aircraft to be built (BBC)
Soon, a small aircraft laden with sensors and a high-speed datalink could be flying over the mountains of Mars - the first aircraft to fly over the terrain of another world. Called Ares (Aerial Regional-scale Environmental Survey of Mars), it could, if all goes well, be flying over the Red Planet's southern uplands in just five years' time. After a successful series of half-scale tests, the US space agency (Nasa) has ordered a full-scale prototype to be built. Ares is in competition with three other Mars exploration proposals for a Nasa launch in 2007. The final selection of one, or possibly two, missions will be made later this year.
2-May-2003 - Instant Glider--Just add Light (NASA Science)
Tomorrow a high-altitude balloon will rise to the edge of space, bringing with it a small glider. Under the space-black sky 100,000 feet above Earth, the glider will sprout a pair of inflatable wings from its sides. Ultraviolet rays from the Sun will harden them to flight readiness. It's a scenario that may someday be used to send a winged planetary explorer to Mars. If so, some of the more than 40 students at the University of Kentucky who have designed and developed this glider just might have a hand in making it happen.
2-May-2003 - Flight path for fuel cells (The Engineer)
NASA's Revolutionary Aeropropulsion Concepts programme is aiming to produce a fuel cell-powered aircraft the size of a Boeing 737 with zero CO2 emissions. 'We think that fuel cells offer the greater long-term benefit if they can be made to work because they have a higher inherent thermal efficiency than conventional aircraft engines,' said Peter McCallum, deputy head of NASA's propulsion and power projects.
25-Feb-2003 - Can Robots Fly On NukePower Alone (SpaceDaily)
The US Air Force is reported to be examining the feasibility of a nuclear-powered version of an unmanned aircraft. The revelations come in the latest issue of New Scientist published Feb 22. According to the report, 'The USAF hopes that such a vehicle will be able to "loiter" in the air for months without refuelling, striking at will when a target comes into its sights."
10-Dec-2002 - Athena's Flight Controls Selected (PR Newswire)
Having demonstrated its capabilities on a vast array of flight vehicle applications here on Earth, Athena Technologies' patented flight control algorithms may be used to fly a planetary research aircraft on Mars. NASA announced on Friday it has chosen Athena client NASA Langley Research Center of Hampton, Virginia as one of four team finalists for the first Mars Scout mission, planned for launch in 2007.
30-Nov-2002 - Flying on Mars (
Flying a plane on Mars would let us survey the Valles Marineris and search for signs of water, helping to determine if life exists or once existed there. CAD software is playing a key role in the design of an airplane intended to provide a quantum jump in Mars exploration by flying on the Red Planet.
20-Sep-2002 - Aurora's MarsFlyer Takes Next Step Towards Red Planet (Aurora Flight Sciences)
Flying 100,000 feet above the Oregon coast yesterday, a new kind of aircraft demonstrated the readiness of robotic airplane technology for Mars exploration. The MarsFlyer, designed and manufactured by Aurora Flight Sciences Corporation, Manassas, Va., is a one-half scale prototype of a NASA aircraft that may one day soar over the red planet returning unique science knowledge on Mars' atmosphere, surface, and interior. Today's flight was the first in a series of high-altitude tests confirming the aircraft's ability to deploy its wings and tail, and demonstrate aerodynamic performance. Led by the NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., Aurora is part of a team of industry, academia, and national laboratories working for the past three years to prepare robotic aircraft technology for scientific application on Mars.
12-Sep-2002 - On a wing and a fuel cell (The Engineer)
An unmanned aircraft capable of staying airborne for up to two weeks is to be developed by Boeing for the US military. The unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) will be powered by a hydrogen fuel cell and could be ready for take-off by 2004, according to George Muellner, director of Boeing's Air Force programmes.
27-Jul-2002 - Tiny flying robots: Future masters of espionage (CNN)
Understanding the aerodynamics that allow insects and hummingbirds to fly is the key to an invention that researchers hope will create a little buzz and a lot of flap. Biologists and technologists at the University of California, Berkeley have spent the past four years developing a tiny robot, called the Micromechanical Flying Insect, that they say will one day fly like a fly. Other projects are taking different paths, but the goal is the same: churn out tiny, nimble devices that can surreptitiously spy on enemy troops, explore the surface of Mars or safely monitor dangerous chemical spills.
23-Jul-2002 - Low wind dashes hopes of record attempt Tuesday (AP)
American adventurer Steve Fossett flew a glider over New Zealand on Tuesday in preparation to soar into the stratosphere, but a local pilot warned the weather forecast did not look good for Fossett's bid to break the gliding altitude record. Fossett, 58, and retired NASA test pilot Einar Enevoldson, 70, want to soar to the stratosphere at 19,000 meters (62,000 feet) — nearly twice the altitude at which commercial passenger jets fly. If they succeed, they plan to build a specially pressurized glider and fly it to 30,480 meters (100,000 feet) sometime in coming years. NASA is interested in Fossett's long-term goal of taking a glider as high as 30,480 meters (100,000 feet) because at that altitude, the air density is the same as on Mars, and the agency believes it can learn lessons for any future flight over the red planet.
19-Jul-2002 - Unmanned craft to soar for Mars research (UPI)
Canadian and American scientists plan to put an unmanned aircraft through a series of test maneuvers over an Arctic impact crater in hopes of learning more about how to fly missions through Martian skies. "A Mars airplane project will look very different from this one," said Emily Lakdawalla, project coordinator with the Planetary Society, of Pasadena, Calif., which is sponsoring the test flights along with NASA's Ames Research Center and aircraft manufacturer MicroPilot, a division of Loewen Aviation of Canada. "However, both projects involve making choices about observational targets that are interesting from a scientific standpoint and safe from an engineering standpoint -- a choice that must be made with every remote sensing mission," Lakdawalla said in an interview with United Press International.
18-Jul-2002 - Devon Crater Team To Test Mars Plane Concepts (SpaceDaily)
From July 17 to 24, 2002, The Planetary Society will team up with NASA Ames Research Center, the SETI Institute, and MicroPilot to fly an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) over Devon Island in the Canadian Arctic in simulated Mars exploration. The airborne scientific investigations of this remote region will coincide with the anniversary of two milestone events in space exploration history - the Apollo 11 landing on the Moon in 1969 and Viking 1 landing on Mars in 1976, both on July 20th.
12-Jun-2002 - Mother Goose Mars Robotic Mission (
Scientists and engineers tested a prototype Mars robotic plane part of The Mother Goose mission. The Mother Goose plane is basically an 8 foot remotely operated wing that can do some pretty amazing things like a near zero velocity landing. Someday the plane will be much larger sporting a 65 foot wingspan, inflatable with a fold-up propeller. Then it will become more like a UAV autonomous robot for flying around mars, that can even land, or even drop tiny robots or instruments.
12-Jun-2002 - Mars Airplane Soars on Earth (
To better reconnoiter the Red Planet, scientists and engineers see high-tech robotic aircraft offering unique advantages. One innovative glider design, currently undergoing trial runs, is built to deploy instruments in scientifically rewarding but tough-to-get-to spots on Mars. The remotely operated 8-foot (2.4 meter) flying wing is one of several projects a group of independent scientists and engineers are working on preparing. The objective: to construct safe, smart, and autonomous landing vehicles and systems for investigating Mars and other worlds.
30-May-2002 - In a flap over Mars (The Guardian)
Ziggy Stardust, one of David Bowie's guises, had a band called the Spiders from Mars. Bowie may have had an inkling of the future, since insect occupation looks more likely than human colonisation, despite Nasa's announcement this week of what could be evidence of a frozen ocean. Space researchers are now planning to explore Mars using not spiders, but their common prey, flies. Man-made dragonflies, in fact. Science and technology often learn things from nature. Dragonflies flit around with wingspans of up to six or seven inches, but in the Carboniferous era, around 280m years ago, they had cousins almost five times that size.
22-Jan-2002 - Bug eyes to give man sight on Mars (IOL)
Aircraft weighing as little as a chocolate bar could one day be darting over the surface of Mars with the agility of dragonflies and the eyes of bees. Australia-based scientists say they have developed navigational and flight control devices based on research into several types of insects. The resulting sensors are so small they can be placed on "microflyers" weighing just 75 grams. The team of researchers at the Australian National University won over Nasa during a test flight of a prototype last week and the US space agency has agreed to help finance further work.
22-Jan-2002 - Flying robotic insect slated to explore Mars (EE Times)
Motivated by the notion that the Mars landscape may prove easier to navigate by air than with ground-based rovers, NASA is backing a research project to build toy-sized flying robots, modeled on the entomology of insects, that can hover like helicopters. Patented as "entomopters," the robots are on the drawing board of University of Missouri professor Kakkattukuzhy Isaac. "We are looking mainly at the dragonfly, the hummingbird and the fruit fly, but we are not trying to mimic one particular insect," said Isaac, who is assisted on the project by graduate student Pavan Shivaram. "Instead we are identifying the principles that enable insects to create such high lift, which is still not completely understood. That is our main task."
10-Jan-2002 - Insect-like robots could explore Mars (Aerospace Online)
Scientists at the University of Missouri are helping NASA evaluate the feasibility of using tiny flying robots as part of future Mars probes to gather information about the planet. K.M. Isaac, a professor of aerospace engineering at the university's Rolla campus, said Wednesday he is supervising an aerodynamic study of computer simulations for a robot named "Entomopter," a combination of the words entomology or insect study and helicopter. The Ohio Aerospace Institute and the Georgia Institute of Technology also are helping NASA with initial evaluations of the robot. "What they're interested in is mapping the terrain of Mars," Issac told United Press International. "The current thinking is the (next-generation) Mars Rover will land, and from there these Entomopters will fly in a circle about a mile from the rover, very close to the surface." The swarm of robots would transmit different types of data back to the rover, depending on what sort of sensor -- i.e. cameras or radiation detectors -- they carried, Isaac said. The robots also could conceivably land and take soil samples, he said. Successful designs will be as lightweight and small as possible.
5-Dec-2001 - Wings Over Mars: Flapping Robotic Insects Could Extend Range of Rover Missions (
They are tiny but talented…and not the bug-eyed Martians of sci-fi fare. Clear the air for the entomopter! This beast of burden may carry out flight duties flapping smartly through the thin, carbon dioxide-laden atmosphere of Mars. Billed as a revolutionary new class of refuelable robotic flying machine, aerospace engineers envision a fleet of the patented mechanical insects fluttering over Mars' surface, each toting scientific sensors from spot to spot. Thanks to their aerial attributes, the micro-machines could scout out terrain well ahead of robot rovers. Future human explorers might also unleash such devices to relay back an eagle eye's view of landscape yet to be traversed.
3-Dec-2001 - Nature's Flight System Could Be Key To Exploring Mars (SpaceDaily)
One of the oldest forms of flight -- the flapping wings of insects -- may support a revolutionary new class of robotic flying machine uniquely suited for exploring a brave new world: the planet Mars. The thin Mars atmosphere, composed mostly of carbon dioxide and lacking oxygen for combustion, provides an inhospitable environment for conventional aircraft and helicopters. Compounding the challenge are size constraints imposed by the spacecraft delivering air vehicles to Mars. But the flapping wing "Entomopter," a patented mechanical insect capable of both flying and crawling, may be ideal for meeting the demanding requirements of Mars aerial exploration.
13-Oct-2001 - NASA scientists eager to glide airplane over Mars (The Virginian-Pilot)
Scientists are designing an airplane that could hover about a mile above Mars, hoping to get a front-row view of a planet whose secrets have eluded them for centuries. Planning to submit a formal $300 million proposal to headquarters in the spring, researchers at NASA Langley Research Center are shaping an aircraft that could do in 2007 what today's orbiters and rovers can't: snap a close-up picture of hundreds of miles of the Martian surface. They hope to better study the planet's extreme climate changes and pinpoint areas they suspect could have wet springs or other signs of former -- or present-day -- life.
27-Sep-2001 - Airplane whiz lands dream opportunity (Deseret News)
What would it take for an airplane to fly on Mars? That was the question 13-year-old Winston Larson posed for last spring's Central Utah Science Fair project. He had to compensate for Mars' lighter air and less gravitational pull to come up with an airplane design. "It would have the wings of a 747 and the fuselage of a Cessna," Larson said. His project earned him a place among America's top 40 young scientists to compete for more than $100,000 in college scholarships and other prizes at the third annual Discovery Young Scientist Challenge in Washington, D.C. The Discovery Channel sponsors the event, which takes place next month.
14-Aug-2001 - NASA Wing Breaks All Records (AP)
NASA's giant propeller-driven flying machine began its slow descent to Earth after setting altitude records for non-rocket powered aircraft but missing its goal by 3,500 feet. Looking more like something out of the early days of aviation than a NASA project, the remote-control Helios Prototype hit an altitude of more than 96,500 feet Monday, just shy of its 100,000-foot goal. Since the atmosphere at 100,000 feet is expected to be similar to the Martian atmosphere, the data collected from the Helios at high altitudes also will help engineers plan for future Mars aircraft designs, officials said.
14-Aug-2001 - NASA Drops Glider From Balloon (AP)
NASA has tested a prototype of an airplane that may one day fly across the surface of Mars. During the August 9 test, National Aeronautics and Space Administration engineers used a helium balloon to haul the glider to 103,000 feet. At that altitude, the atmosphere is as thin as it is on Mars. The plane was then dropped. After an initial 13,000-foot plunge, the plane swooped out of its steep dive into stable flight. Flying for the most part on autopilot, the plane took two hours and 22 minutes to spiral down to a landing in the grass at Oregon's Tillamook Airport. It reached a top speed of Mach .82, or slightly less than the speed of sound.
14-Aug-2001 - Flying Wing Surpasses Altitude Records for Non-Rocket Airplane (
NASA's solar-powered Helios experimental aircraft lifted off from a U.S. Navy base on the Hawaiian island of Kauai on Monday, reaching a height of 96,500 feet. The $15 million aircraft failed in its attempt to reach an altitude of 100,000 feet, but it broke a record set by its predecessor, the Pathfinder Plus, for 80,201 feet for solar-powered and propeller-driven aircraft in 1998. "It's a real milestone of flight," NASA spokesman Alan Brown said. "It's a landmark achievement, and especially to do it with a solar aircraft that is nonpolluting. It is a triumph of technology in this area." The radio-controlled Helios craft, which cruises at speeds of 19 to 25 mph, can reach 103,000 feet under ideal weather conditions, its designers say. It could even be used to fly above Mars, NASA says.
13-Aug-2001 - Ames Completes Successful Test of Mars Airplane Prototype (NASA)
Soaring gracefully down to Earth from a balloon floating 103,000 feet high above Oregon, a NASA prototype of an airplane that someday may fly over Mars successfully completed a high-altitude flight test August 9. Conducted at Oregon’s Tillamook airport by the Kitty Hawk 3 project at NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA, the test was designed to validate the aerodynamic performance of the prototype. Nicknamed "Orville" after one of the famed Wright brothers who first flew on Dec. 17, 1903, the NASA 731 glider was dropped from a helium-filled balloon that towed it up to an altitude of 101,000 feet — the highest ever for such a test - before releasing it. Engineers and scientists hailed the test as a great success. "Mars has always fascinated people," said Larry Lemke, an aerospace engineer at NASA Ames who serves as Ames’ project manager for advanced Mars mobility concepts, which include airplanes as well as other systems. "Every time we send a mission up there, we come back with fascinating discoveries."
9-Aug-2001 - Helios To Attempt Record Altitude Flight (SpaceDaily)
A new world's altitude record for a non-rocket-powered aircraft could be achieved over Hawaii this weekend by the NASA-sponsored Helios Prototype solar-electric flying wing. Engineers estimate the aircraft could reach at least 95,000 feet on this mission with 100,000 feet still a possibility, well above the current record of 85,068 feet for sustained horizontal flight set by a SR-71 in 1966.
9-Jul-2001 - Inflatable Wings Given A Flutter (SpaceDaily)
A deployable, inflatable wing technology demonstrator experiment has flown at the NASA Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards, Calif. The inflatable wing project represents a basic flight research effort by Dryden personnel. Recalling Hugh Dryden's vision for the purpose of flight research, Jeff Bauer, manager of Dryden's inflatable aircraft project, noted "With these tests we have put some reality behind the many imagined applications for inflatable winged aircraft."
26-Jun-2001 - NASA Readies Solar-Powered, High-Altitude Plane (Reuters)
When U.S. space scientists send a $15 million, solar-powered experimental plane into the skies over Hawaii sometime in July, it will achieve top speeds no faster than a bicycle, powered by 14 electric motors not much stronger than hair dryers. But NASA project scientists hope the Helios prototype -- which appears to be made of a translucent wing 250 feet long and looking like a flying boomerang -- will shatter altitude records, help them understand how to fly on Mars and ultimately pioneer a new era in satellites.
16-Jun-2001 - Mars mission proposal glides to final consideration (AP)
A proposal by a University of Nevada-Reno researcher to explore a deep canyon on Mars with four small gliders is being considered by NASA as a potential 2007 mission to the Red Planet. NASA announced this week that the KittyHawk proposal - named for the site of the Wright brothers' first flight - has been chosen as a finalist, along with nine projects from eight other institutions. "I tried twice to get it on the list," said Wendy Calvin, a research associate professor in the UNR geology department.