(ORDO NEWS) — Researchers have unveiled a lightweight flying saucer-style rover that can navigate the lunar surface and other airless planetary surfaces such as asteroids.
The “flying saucer” will be powered by an electric field, which is created due to the direct influence of the Sun and the surrounding plasma. In the absence of an atmosphere, solar exposure creates a charge capable of propelling dust more than a meter (over three feet) above the moon’s surface , and this energy can be harnessed.
The rover will be made of a material called Mylar, which retains the same charge when exposed to sunlight. Tiny ion beams will be used both to charge the vehicle and to increase the natural surface charge by counteracting gravity.
In fact, the fuel is a molten salt, which, when an electric charge hits, flies out of the nozzles in the form of a beam.
In a lab experiment using ionic liquid ion sources to create electrostatic force, the team was able to levitate a small palm-sized prototype weighing about 60 grams. The amount of force required will depend on the size of the planetary body.
Current analysis only proves that levitation is possible. Further simulations will be required to get the rover to a decent height, the researchers say, but basic calculations will prove to be true.
Large asteroids such as Psyche can also be explored with such an apparatus, giving experts the opportunity to explore these rocky bodies up close with a vehicle that is not bothered by surface irregularities and can draw some of its energy from natural electric fields.
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