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In this activity the students choose variables to come up with the best design for a Mars Airplane mission.

The best combination of choices is:

Elliptical Wing,

Fuel Oxidizer,

Propeller,

Subsonic

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This plane would fly for the longest time (70 minutes) and the longest range (531-km).

Our experts comments:

Steve Smith:

The elliptical wing will minimize the drag generated by the tip vortex. The subsonic choice produces less drag, which is very important in Mars's low-density atmosphere.

Peter Gage:

The fuel oxidizer is ideal for the atmosphere on Mars,which lacks Oxygen to burn hydrocarbons and is more efficient than batteries and solar power. (One complication with this "best" solution is that the technology is not currently available.Batteries and an electric motor would be more reliable, because the components are available now. The best performance on paper may not turn out to be the best in real life!) The propeller is the best option for generating subsonic thrust.