FLYING saucers may soon be used to explore the moons and asteroids orbiting around our planet.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), is looking for ways to make a hovering spacecraft that operates without air.
The craft will operate in the same way as birds and planes: it will levitate using an electric charge from interplanetary surfaces.
Researchers are currently testing the spacecraft. They have been creating a beta disc about the same size as a human hand.
The “flying saucer”The weight of the shaped object is just below a regular chicken eggs.
You can charge the electric. “much the way static electricity can cause a person’s hair to stand on end,”The researchers stated in a Statement.
“We think of using this like the Hayabusa missions that were launched by the Japanese space agency,” said Oliver Jia-Richards, lead author of the study and a graduate student in MIT’s Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics.
“That spacecraft operated around a small asteroid and deployed small rovers to its surface. Similarly, we think a future mission could send out small hovering rovers to explore the surface of the moon and other asteroids.”
Although celestial bodies such as the moon and asteroids do not have an atmosphere that would support the flight of a traditional craft, the absence of atmosphere allows them to get direct sun exposure.
This allows them to create an electric field on their surfaces.
“Then we thought, what if we transfer our own charge to the surface to supplement its natural charge?” Jia-Richards says.
NASA supported part of the MIT research team, which found that a small, disc-shaped craft with small thrusters could generate enough electrostatic force for hovering over the charged surface.
This enabled the small craft hover and to essentially levitate to the charge. Research by the team showed their design concept was strong sufficient to lift a 2-pound object to the moon or an asteroid.
The moon’s natural surface charges can lift lunar dust three feet higher than the ground, but there are additional thrusters that can produce a greater repulsive force.
This can open up a world of possibilities for NASA and other space exploration missions.
“In principle, with better modeling, we could levitate to much higher heights,” said Jia-Richards’ co-author Paulo Lozano.
“With a levitating rover, you don’t have to worry about wheels or moving parts,” Lozano added. “An asteroid’s terrain could be totally uneven, and as long as you had a controlled mechanism to keep your rover floating, then you could go over very rough, unexplored terrain, without having to dodge the asteroid physically.”