Frogs, Kangaroos, Fleas and the next Mars rover. You might think the last one in this list is out of place but if a research group in the United Kingdom. The group lead by the Leicester University and the Astrium space company is proposing a new type of rover called the Hopper. The Hopper will be capable of leap around one kilometer over obstacles that have hampered past and current Mars rovers.
"Rocket-propelled vehicles capable of travelling a kilometre or more in a ballistic 'hop' with propellants acquired from the Martian atmosphere offer the potential for increased mobility and planetary science return compared with conventional rovers," an abstract Proceedings of the Royal Society press release reported.
In the 3 years the research team has been working on the Hopper they have overcome many of the design aspects including how to replenish the propellants. The solution was to use the resources found on the red planet itself to keep the Hopper going. The atmosphere of Mars contains plenty of carbon dioxide that the Hopper would use by extracting it out of the air. Once it takes the CO2 in it would be converted into a liquid that when heated to a high enough temperature will be expelled through jets that will propel the Hopper upto 300 feet above the surface of the planet.
"The advantage of this approach is that you have the ability to traverse more aggressive terrains but also that you have wider mobility - the possibility of traversing much greater distances than we have with even the very successful rovers," Hugo Williams of Leicester's Space Research Center said, the BBC reported.
There is still one problem that they haven't been able to adequately solve. That is how to construct the legs for constant use as it leaps its way across the planet. The current landing modules have “honeycombed” metal legs designed to soften the impact of landing. This works fine for a single use but wouldn't stand up to multiple landings. For the Hopper any type of metal used for the legs will have to be strong enough to withstand repeated impacts yet still to absorb the force and keep the sensitive equipment in the Hopper safe.
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