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NASA 2024 Innovative Concept Studies Selection Unveils Mars Aircraft Proposal Amongst Diverse Projects


  • NIAC funds 13 innovative studies for 2024.

  • MAGGIE, a solar-powered Mars aircraft, stands out.

  • CFJ technology could revolutionize Mars exploration.

NASA’s Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program, an incubator for revolutionary space and exploration technologies, has recently chosen 13 cutting-edge concepts for Phase I exploration with a funding provision up to $175,000 each. This investment aims to evaluate the viability of these pioneering ideas and refine their potential for future missions that align with NASA’s scientific and exploratory goals.

NIAC: A Cradle for Trailblazing Space Missions

The NIAC has historically been the birthplace of transformative ideas that later became landmark missions. Jim Free, NASA Associate Administrator, emphasizes the importance of these early-stage ideas, citing the success stories such as the Ingenuity helicopter on Mars and MarCO CubeSats’ instruments in deep space. Although not all selected concepts may reach full mission status, their innovative approaches offer valuable insights and progress in technology.

2024 Awardees: From Venus to Exoplanets

The assortment of selected proposals for this year includes a broad range of missions from Venus sample returns to an interstellar probe fleet. Among these, the Mars Aerial and Ground Global Intelligent Explorer (MAGGIE) concept stands out. Designed by aerodynamics expert Ge-Cheng Zha, MAGGIE is a proposed solar-powered aircraft for Mars capable of vertical take-off and landing.

MAGGIE would feature advanced CoFlow Jet (CFJ) technology, significantly enhancing its aerodynamic performance on Mars by enabling high lift coefficients and overcoming stall issues. With a substantial operating range and capability to fly for a full Martian year, MAGGIE presents a promising method for extensive exploration of the planet’s surface and atmosphere.

This visionary aircraft intends to perform comprehensive atmospheric and geological surveys on Mars. Its solar-powered design promotes long-term operational sustainability, potentially revolutionizing the current scope of Martian exploration.

Zha draws parallels between MAGGIE and the pioneering Ingenuity helicopter, stressing the potential of his aircraft to captivate the public and expand the exploration of Mars. Furthermore, he highlights the terrestrial applications of CFJ technology, particularly for enhancing the efficiency of Earth-bound electric VTOL (eVTOL) vehicles.

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