Researchers at MIT have conceptualised a new vision for future exploration on Mars — a swarm of probes, each the size of a baseball, spreading out across the planet in every direction.
Present day rovers do not have the capability to explore remote and rocky terrain that covers a large part of the Red Planet’s surface. These probes, on the other hand, would bounce and roll over all types of the Martian surface and distribute themselves to different corners of the planet.
“They would start to hop, bounce and roll and distribute themselves across the surface of the planet, exploring as they go, taking scientific data samples,” said Steven Dubowsky, MIT professor of mechanical engineering and leader of the research team.
“The tubes can be entered through holes formed on the surface where sections of the tubes have collapsed. But these formations are too treacherous for today’s rovers to explore. However, tiny bouncing probes could make their way inside the caves. Small probes might be able to make their way down the canyon faces,” said Prof. Dubowsky.
“One of the major advantages of the mini probes is that losing a few out of all sent into a treacherous area would not derail the mission. You would be willing to sacrifice some of these balls to gather information from remote areas,” he said.
Each probe would carry sensors, including cameras and environmental sensors and would communicate with nearby probes through LAN. Data would be sent to a base station that would transmit information back to Earth.