The Potential for Wind Energy Generation on Mars

PI: Dr. Hugo Schmidt, Department of Physics, Montana State University and William Nichols, Blackfeet Community College

One of the main missions of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration is the exploration of the solar system. This exploration takes many forms such as studying the interactions between the sun and the earth, tracking system bodies like comets and meteors, and investigating the characteristics of the planets. This proposal concerns itself with the third type of investigation.

Perhaps no other planet has captured mankind's imagination as much as Mars. During the past two decades, NASA has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on remote sensing of the planet, and on sending various semi-robotic orbiters and landers to explore Mars in greater detail. The Pathfinder mission conducted in 1997 was the most famous of these efforts, in part because of the "little robot that could," Sojourner. Sojourner performed well beyond its mission expected capabilities, but in the end, it ran out of power. Dust had coated its photovoltaic cells to the point that it could not keep its batteries charged.

This project is an attempt to provide a renewable power source, wind energy, for future Mars missions that will be able to defeat the problems of weak sunlight and the ever present dust. According to data from the Viking landers and Pathfinder, Mars has wind, perhaps more than enough to be harnessed for electricity. This project will begin the work of exploring the wind energy potential of Mars, and the preliminary designs for a wind energy turbine tailored to the harsh environment found on the planet.

Contact Information

Mail: Dr. Hugo Schmidt
Department of Physics
Montana State University
Bozeman, MT 59715
Phone: (406) 994-6173
FAX: (406) 994-4452

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Updated June 19, 2006