Hidden Nook

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Sunday, December 11, 2005

Mars Has Bouncing Balls?

[Media Source*]

(Hat Tip: Gizmodo, We Make Money Not Art)

(Universe Today) The NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts has recently awarded a Phase II grant for a unique robot design that could hop across the surface of Mars. An array of these tiny robots could be deployed on Mars, coordinating with one another like a swarm of insects.

For the past several years, NASA has been encouraging scientists and engineers to think outside the box, to come up with ideas just this side of science fiction. Their hope is that some of these ideas will pan out, and provide the agency with technologies it can use 20, 30, or 40 years down the road.

If successfully developed and launched, these bouncing balls may soon become a common sight, as using miniature robots to map out the surface of a world is far more productive than sending an expensive rover. Future colonists could also use these "bouncing balls" to explore underground caves, and tunnels and perhaps even play pranks on their fellow crew mates (with NASA's approval of coarse).

(Universe Today) We are envisioning having them not all identical, but rather an ensemble, with enough of the different kinds of units fitted out with different kinds of sensors so that the probability would still be high, even given fairly high losses of numbers of units, that we would still have a complete suite of sensors. Even though each individual unit cannot have a giant payload of sensors on it, you could have enough so that it could give significant overlap with its fellow units.

Currently the project is still in "beta mode," as more testing needs to be done before these gizmos can be considered for the next Martian mission. It would not be surprising to find these little bots on the lunar surface, as that would not only provide a unique testing ground but also may aid astronauts by acting as a warning system if radiation levels rise too rapidly (Editor's note: author's suggestion, not NASA's).

Image Credit: Photo originally from NASA

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By Darnell Clayton • 11:14 PM • Email Post • •


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