General, Research, Technology

Why did engineers develop a robot made of ice?

At the moment, studying distant planetsexclusively robots are engaged. Right now, Curiosity and InSight are operating on the surface of Mars, which regularly send scientists data about the features of a distant planet. But these robots have one drawback - they are not eternal and will break sooner or later. If they were on Earth, engineers would quickly fix the problems, but there are no people near the devices who can carry out repairs. Therefore, it would be great if robots could repair each other. But, firstly, they are not yet so developed, and secondly, there are no necessary spare parts on distant planets. To solve this problem, engineers from the US state of Pennsylvania proposed assembling robots from ice. So what? If a breakdown occurs, you can create spare parts from ice, which is on Mars and a number of other planets. A demo version of the ice robot has already been created and you can watch it in the video.

The robot is made of ice called IceBot

Ice robot for space exploration

About a new robot for exploring distant planetswas reported in IEEE Spectrum. The device, developed by engineers, is called IceBot and weighs 6.3 kilograms. It goes without saying that electronics cannot be made from frozen water, so only the body and wheels are made of ice. According to the creators of the robot, if the structure breaks over time, the device will be able to repair itself using the ice reserves on Mars, the Moon and other planets. With the help of a mechanical hand, a piece of ice can be shaped into the desired shape (for example, wheels) and installed on a structure. The prototype ice robot has already been created and does not degrade even at room temperature. Only the inventors have not shown the process of how the robot can troubleshoot.

The cost of the Curiosity rover at one time was $ 2.5 billion. The ice robot is clearly cheaper

Also Devin Carroll shared that ideallyan IceBot project should consist of two robots. The first will be equipped with mechanical arms and will be engaged in ice mining, so that at any time it will be ready to repair the main robot. The second, as you might guess, will carry scientific equipment and collect data on the properties of space objects. But the question arises - what to do if a robot that is engaged in repairs breaks down? The authors of the robot did not say a word about this.

See also: What will the rovers of the future look like?

Difficulties in studying planets

Indeed, IceBot has severalremarkable advantages over conventional rovers. But the number of minuses is also very impressive. It is interesting how the ice robots will be delivered to distant planets, because it has to stay in cold conditions. Of course, something like a refrigerator can be built into a spaceship, but it takes a lot of energy to power it. Also wondering - will the ice robot melt when exposed to sunlight? The average temperature on Mars is about -40 degrees Celsius, but in the summer season the air can warm up to +20 degrees. So it is not clear how the engineers will protect the structure from destruction. It would be a shame to spend billions of dollars sending an ice robot to Mars and watch it live on air as it just took and melted.

Mostly cold on Mars, but there are also warm times

In general, before creating the final version of the systemIceBot, engineers need to consider a huge number of nuances. The prototype of the ice robot has already been created and at first they want to test it on the territory of cold Antarctica. After all, research is often carried out on these icy lands - for example, a methane leak was recently found there, which can accelerate global warming. And after testing the robot on Earth, it will be possible to send the test vehicle to the Moon or Mars.

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Engineers often come up with new devices forexploration of distant planets. Around February 2021, the Perseverance spacecraft will be delivered to Mars. Together with him, a small helicopter will arrive on the Red Planet, which scientists are not yet sure of. It is hoped that a device with a propeller will be able to fly in Martian conditions and reach places that are inaccessible to conventional rovers. You can read more about this helicopter at this link.