Stanford: Phobos Surveyor Will Roam the Martian Moon
The project, a collaboration between Stanford, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), was developed by Marco Pavone, an assistant professor in Stanford’s Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics.
This robotic space exploration platform can be used to explore any of our solar system’s members, including comets and asteroids, but developer Marco Pavone indicated he designed it with the Martian moon Phobos in mind.
The Phobos moon mission that has been proposed for the space platform involves the orbiting of a mothership above the surface of Phobos, with deployment of several spherical rovers to the surface of the Martian moon Phobos. The rovers, termed “Hedgehogs,” would tumble across the surface of the Martian moon, sometimes hopping and other times bounding across the surface.
The hedgehogs are not equipped with wheels, as are the current Mars rovers. The rovers are propelled by 3 rotating discs, arranged in a triangular shape, which scientists feel will be the optimum propulsion method for the low gravity of the Martian moon.
Gravity on Phobos’ is 1000 times weaker than on Mars, and the rovers’ designers have made accommodations for the lack of gravity by covering the probe with spikes, allowing the probe to dig in and keep from floating away. Hence the name, “Hedgehog.”
The mission would begin with a complete mapping of the moon Phobos first, allowing scientists to study where to release the hedgehogs as to ascertain the best information.
The mothership, Phobos Surveyor, would be used to take large-scale measurements, while the hedgehog probes would gather more intricate detailed data. The surveyor will be equipped with a Gamma Ray and a neutron detector, giving it the ability to measure chemical concentrations and compounds on the surface, while the hedgehogs will take soil samples and use microscopes to do finite examinations of the terrain.
The Phobos Surveyor’s mission is considered a precursor to a manned space flight to Mars. “It’s a piece of technology that is needed before any more expensive type of exploration is considered,” Pavone said of the spacecraft – rover hybrid. ”Before sampling we need to know where to land. We need to deploy rovers to acquire info about the surface.”
The Stanford researchers initiated the spacecraft – rover project as part of the NASA innovative advanced concepts program. They will present a paper describing their platforms proposed mission at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Aerospace Conference in March 2013.
Article by Jim Donahue