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Massachusetts Institute of Technology engineers are testing the idea of ​​a "hovering rover"


In the near future, the question will become relevantcreation of transport for research on other planets, the Moon and asteroids. Celestial bodies devoid of atmosphere, unlike Mars, on which the Ingenuity helicopter has already been tested, will not allow the use of traditional terrestrial technologies. Engineers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have proposed the concept of a futuristic levitating spacecraft capable of moving through the airless space of celestial bodies. The idea is being studied using the example of exploring the Moon, where levitation is made possible by the natural charge of our satellite.

Lack of atmosphere on the moon and other celestialbodies leads to the fact that a surface electric field is formed here, generated from the direct interaction of the surface with the solar wind and matter in interplanetary space. Such a surface charge on the Moon allows lunar dust particles to be lifted up to a height of one meter. This phenomenon is similar to the experience with static electricity, which makes a person's hair stand on end.

Scientists from NASA considered the possibilityusing a natural surface charge to levitate a glider with wings made of mylar, a material that naturally holds the same charge as surfaces on airless celestial bodies. Considering the fact that equally charged surfaces must repel each other, the engineers calculated the force that would allow the glider to lift off the surface. This solves many problems with the movement of the research rover on the uneven surface of celestial bodies. The hovering off-road vehicle does not require wheels or moving parts.

Nevertheless, a similar design is probablywill be limited to small asteroids, as larger celestial bodies will require stronger resistance to gravitational attraction. The solution, proposed by MIT engineers, will overcome gravity using compact ion thrusters. The tiny nozzles of ion thrusters are connected to a reservoir of ionic liquid, which is salt molten at room temperature. Applying a voltage to the system charges the liquid ions, which are then emitted as a beam through the nozzles, generating lift.

Flying saucer-shaped concepta retro drive, uses tiny ion beams to both charge the vehicle and increase the surface's natural charge. The result is a relatively large repulsive force between the vehicle and the surface, which requires very little power.

In the initial technical and economicJustification, the researchers show that such an ionic pulse can be strong enough for a small device weighing about 900 grams to levitate on the Moon and large asteroids such as Psyche. For a flight over the surface of the moon, a power source of 50 kilovolts is required, and 10 kilovolts is enough over Psyche.

Tiny was chosen when testinga hexagonal apparatus weighing up to 60 grams, the size of which does not exceed a human palm. One ion thruster was pointed upward and four were directed downward. The device was suspended above an aluminum surface on two springs, calibrated to the gravitational force of the Earth. The entire system is placed in a vacuum to create an airless model of the Moon and asteroids. The force generated by the motors was measured with a tungsten rod attached to the springs. As a result of testing, the scientists were convinced that the theoretical calculations coincide with the experimental data of the rover hovering model over the surface of the Moon and Psyche. The principle of levitation using ion thrusters can be used in future research for safe movement over uneven terrain on uncharted celestial bodies.