“Wind power represents a valuable but previously overlooked energy resource for future human missions to Mars,” the scientists wrote in their paper. NASA scientists were not immediately available for comment.
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Space agencies, scientists and entrepreneurs are clamoring for humans to explore Mars. NASA’s Artemis mission to the moon is seen as a stepping stone to Mars exploration over the next decade. China hopes to put humans on the planet by 2033. Elon Musk, one of the richest people in the world and CEO of SpaceX, hinted that he would do so by 2029.
But powering human exploration missions to Mars will require multiple energy sources, the scientists note. Solar power has been used in the past to support Martian missions, but is not very powerful during Martian nights or during dust storms that limit sunlight. Nuclear power is another likely source, but it carries security risks if placed near human bases.
Wind power has long been considered unusable largely because Mars’ atmosphere is so thin, making breezes weak. But Victoria Hartwick, a postdoctoral fellow at NASA’s Ames Research Center, used NASA climate models to challenge previous assumptions and show it could be a ‘self-contained or complementary’ energy source on the planet, the researchers wrote in the study.
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Hartwick and his teammates used the model to estimate the wind speed on the planet. They used topographic, dust and heat maps from data collected by the Mars Global Surveyor and Viking missions, and simulated wind speeds on Mars, breaking down the estimates by day and night, and by different seasons. and years.
Using this information, they calculated the maximum amount of power they could generate in different parts of the planet assuming they had a fully efficient wind turbine. They compared this to previously estimated energy requirements to keep six people on Mars for a mission lasting 500 Martian days.
Scientists have found that wind power could serve as an effective supplement to solar power, especially during Martian nights and dust storms when the effect of solar power is diminished, or replace it entirely in some parts. of the planet.
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Based on the wind analysis, there are thirteen new locations on Mars that could become open to human exploration, study scientists note, and ten of the 50 target sites previously identified by scientists had the potential to use the wind as an additional source of energy.
It is not yet certain that humans will master the technology to explore Mars, and turbines would have to be built. They are expected to be around 160 feet or 50 meters tall – a roughly medium-sized machine compared to those used on Earth. The height would be capped due to engineering and transportation challenges for larger machines, the scientists said.
They could be particularly good at capturing planetary winds near the edges of Mars’ craters or the slopes of volcanoes, the scientists said, but more work is needed to get the challenges under control.
“We encourage further studies aimed at advancing wind turbine technology,” they said, “to operate efficiently under Mars conditions and extract more energy from Mars winds.”
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