Flying robotic insect slated to explore Mars

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Mars Base Camp is Lockheed Martin’s vision for sending humans to Mars in about a decade. The Mars surface lander called the Mars Accent Descent Vehicle (MADV) is a single-stage system that uses Orion systems as the command deck. It could allow astronauts to explore the surface for two weeks at a time before returning back to the Mars Base Camp in orbit around Mars.

Motivated by the notion that the Mars landscape may prove easier to navigate by air than with ground-based rovers, NASA is backing a research project to build toy-sized flying robots, modeled on the entomology of insects, that can hover like helicopters. Patented as “entomopters,” the robots are on the drawing board of University of Missouri professor Kakkattukuzhy Isaac. “We are looking mainly at the dragonfly, the hummingbird and the fruit fly, but we are not trying to mimic one particular insect,” said Isaac, who is assisted on the project by graduate student Pavan Shivaram. “Instead we are identifying the principles that enable insects to create such high lift, which is still not completely understood. That is our main task.”

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