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Wednesday, March 30, 2005

NASA Plans Nanobot Swarms for Mars

Prototype TET Walker.
Prototype TET Walker.
Credit: NASA
An advanced research team at NASA has successfully tested a prototype next-generation rover system in Antarctica. The new design relies on toppling over the tetrahedron-shaped structure to move, which makes it much more robust when compared to current designs. But that's not the best part. Now that the design concept is proven sound, the researchers hope to shrink it. Dramatically.

By replacing their motors and struts with Nano-Electro-Mechanical Systems and carbon nanotubes, they hope to be able to reduce the size of each machine to the micro or nano scale. When this is achieved the possibilities are endless. The researchers will use the nanorovers to form their own solar sail to get to Mars, and once there to move like a snake across the surface, growing an antenna as necessary. When one adds in the ability to repair damage to individual units, these "Autonomous Nanotechnology Swarms" begin to look like the nanobots of science fiction. But not to worry; Mars won't turn into a ball of gray goo until around 2034.

(More info: NASA)

- posted by Brian @ 23:48 EST