NASA has two teams of researchers working to design a robotic bee that can fly on Mars.
The space agency announced the project on March 30. It’s in its early stages, but the idea is to replace modern rovers — which are slow, bulky and very expensive — with swarms of sensor-studded, fast-moving micro-bots that can cover much more ground at a relatively low cost.
Literally called Marsbees, the little bots are “flapping wing flyers of a bumblebee size with cicada-sized wings,” NASA officials wrote.
As Live Science has previously reported , the largest species of bumblebee grows to be up to 1.6 inches (4 centimeters) long, but the American bumblebee is about a quarter of that size. Cicada wings, according to a range of formal scientific descriptions , can vary from 1.2 inches (3 centimeters) to more than double that length, depending on the species.
One reason this idea is at all feasible: Mars’ low gravity. The planet has just one-third of Earth’s gravitational pull, offering the Marsbees an advantage despite the thin atmosphere .
The Guardian reported that these “bees” will not only map the Martian terrain but also collect samples of the planet’s thin air, in hopes of finding methane gas — a possible sign of life. NASA’s Curiosity rover has detected low levels of the gas previously, Science reported, though whether it was biologically produced is unknown.
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