Based on a recent press release, NASA develops new wind-powered robot to probe Jupiter and other gas giants in space. The ‘windbot’, as scientists have nicknamed it, could be a successful replacement for the Curiosity rover, which only works on land, scientists have explained.
NASA’s Curiosity rover on Mars has been very successful ever since it was first launched in space in 2004. However, the robot has its limitations as previous experiments have shown. In addition to the land problems that the rover has encountered, scientists have also stated that Curiosity is not capable of exploring gas planets; therefore, a new type of robot is required for the study of these unformed celestial bodies.
According to Adrian Stoica, the leader of the current study, the wind-powered robot would be constructed based on the principles of other flying objects. Scientists have explained that they will first try to find an efficient energy source to power the windbot. Since turbulence is very common on gas planets, Adrian Stoica thinks this is the only solution to keep the windbot charged in space.
He has further explained that the charging mechanism of the wind-powered robot would be very similar to the one of the automatic watches, whose batteries remain charged if the wearer moves his/her arm. The turbulences on Jupiter and Saturn would cause the windbot to tilt, thus, keeping the battery charged at all times.
For the flying technique of the windbot scientists have also inspired themselves from nature. According to Adrian Stoica, the windbot would travel and fly through gas formations using the movements of dandelions. Scientists believe these plants are the best example for their current project because dandelions work with the wind surrounding them; they create lift using just their natural movements and rotations in air.
There are many other researches that scientists would most likely have to carry out in order for the $100,000 Innovative Advanced Concepts Program to be successful. They will also study Jupiter’s winds to determine the right weight of the windbot.
In addition, many controlled experiments will be conducted on Earth before the wind-based probe will be sent in space so scientists could estimate what sensors the robot needs in order to respond correctly to wind changes in space.
Windbots could not only be useful to space research, but they could also allow scientists to get more information about our Earth. By studying winds and turbulences on Jupiter, researchers could better understand Earth’s atmosphere, scientists have concluded.
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