WHAT’S BEING CLAIMED:
- The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) announced on March 30 that it is planning to put man-made bees on Mars.
- The agency created two teams of researchers to work on the design of a robotic bee that can effectively fly on Mars.
- The project aims to replace space exploration rovers “which are slow, bulky and very expensive.
NASA’s “Marsbees” project is in its early stages. Its main objective is to replace planetary rovers with “swarms of sensor-studded, fast-moving micro-bots that can cover much more ground at a relatively low cost.”
On its March 30 announcement, NASA wrote: “The objective of the proposed work is to increase the set of possible exploration and science missions on Mars by investigating the feasibility of flapping wing aerospace architectures in a Martian environment.”
NASA officials described the robots as “flapping wing flyers of a bumblebee size with cicada-sized wings.”
Bumblebees are large bees with the largest species reaching up to 1.6 inches in length, according to Live Science. The American bumblebee is just about a quarter of that size. Cicada wingspan varies depending on the species and can range from 1.2 inches (3 centimeters) to more than twice that length.
Mars may have a thin atmosphere but it has a low gravity. The Red planet has just one-third of Earth’s gravitational pull, making it feasible for the Marsbees to fly and hover.
The Marsbees are expected to map the Martian terrain and collect samples of the planet’s thin air, according to The Guardian. This is in the hope of finding methane gas and a possible sign of life. Live Science previously reported that NASA’s Curiosity rover has discovered low levels of the gas previously. But it was not determined if it was biologically produced.
A team from the University of Alabama will work on numerical models and optimize a flapping flyer for Martian atmospheric conditions while a Japanese team will design and test a micro-flapping robot, NASA stated.
Source: Live Science