Wednesday, 18 July 2007

Tumbleweed ball to Mars

Allright, Archimedes may become a low cost real Mars balloon probe, but can we make an even simpler design?

What if we simply send an inflated airbag, containing simple sensors? It would be it's own parachute, landing airbag, and movement system. If it's light enough to be bouncing and/or to be carried by the wind, then we may not even want to have a complicated mechanism to control its movement. All the equipment for measurements would be inside. Maybe it will be possible to put a camera inside it, peeping out through a hole, although i'm not sure it'd be safe there, or whether it would't collect lot of dirt while rolling.

The Tumbleweed Rover is under development at NASA - although at a slow pace (apparently tests begun more than 6 years ago). At least they have gone through short tests at Antarctica, and lately also in a desert environment in Arizona.

A not too interesting video of the Tumbleweed at Antarctica

If you want to read more technicalities, check this report of the tests in Arizona. They even made some simple tests with solar cells on the outside of a ball.

1 comment:

f said...

After a few minutes of thinking, this may be the worst idea ever. Sure they move faster than the rovers, but how much time does it take for them to get stuck in even a quite small crater? I'm not sure Mars has a terrain anywhere where they could certainly avoid craters.

Maybe Venus is a more likely candidate - even though we don't know much about topographic features at small scales.