NASA planning rover missions to Martian moon

Over the course of the last few months, we have discussed the various technologies aboard the Mars rover Curiosity and the progress made in exploring the Red Planet’s surface. An array of sensors and robotic tools have allowed NASA to gather data that we have never been able to access before. Now, in a similar effort, researchers have developed a robotic platform that could push the boundaries of space exploration even further.

According to NASA Tech Briefs, scientists at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, along with colleagues at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, hope to use a specially designed spacecraft as a launching point for multiple rovers. Their goal would be to traverse the surface of the Martian moon known as Phobos and relay information back to Earth.

The state-of-the-art sensors will be used to map the surface and successfully deploy the rovers in strategic locations to analyze atmospheric and geologic conditions. The data would then be transmitted back to the “mothership” and then on to Earth. Once measurements have been taken in an area, the next rover, also known as a hedgehog, would be launched to a new section of the moon.

“Measuring about half a meter wide, each rover would hop, tumble and bound across the cratered, lopsided moon, relaying information about its origins, as well as its soil and other surface materials,” the news source said.

As with Curiosity, which cost an estimated $2.5 billion, these systems will rely heavily on material bonding technologies that enable them to operate efficiently under the harsh conditions found on the Red Planet’s surface. As we move forward with our exploration of space, innovative ways of bonding dissimilar metals that reduce overall equipment weight but do not sacrifice strength or structural integrity will be critical.

Reducing weight will subsequently cut back on the amount of fuel needed to launch shuttles and make long journeys deep into space. And simultaneously improving durability and mobility will allow robotic arms to support the sensors needed to gather the information scientists seek.

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