Marsbee – robot able to conduct further explorations of the Red Planet, which is currently being developed by NASA.
Sometimes self-contained aircraft drones are more effective than bulky Mars rover vehicles. However, to create ideal cyber-explorer you shall first conduct relevant studies. National Aeronautics and Space Administration has published its first thoughts on the creation of Marsbees – robotic flyers. The first challenge that shall be met by the research team is feasibility study of such technologies for the future missions, design engineering and flight simulation in the Martian atmosphere.
However, this operation would not be without rover vehicle: it will become the base station, on which Marsbees will reside before take-off, during recharging and will also serve as a communication center. Cyber-insects will not be the size of a bee, they will be slightly bigger – as big as cicada or bumblebee. Compact and energy-efficient flapping wings, rather than rotating blades, were chosen in view of the low-density atmosphere of Mars, where the power is dominated by the inertial power. According to Chang-kwon Kang from the University of Alabama (Huntsville, the USA), who is the member of International American-Japanese team dealing with development of robots for Mars, cyber-bee will have torsional spring at the wing root. This spring will temporarily store otherwise wasted energy and will reduce the overall inertial power at resonance. Thus, more understandable, smarter and controllable rotating wing (like those of the drones) will be substituted for flapping wings of robotic bees.
The goal of Phase I is to determine the wing design, ideal weight, and movement patterns of Marsbee best suited for flights throughout Mars. These properties will be assessed in a vacuum chamber with the air density reduced to the Mars density. Phase II will involve take-off and landing, power implications, maneuverability, and wind gust rejection.
As a reminder, SpaceX has announced its intentions to colonize Mars. NASA, for its part, is developing ion-driven air motor that will keep satellite in low-orbit by using atmospheric gases as a propellant and power generation from solar panels.