An overview of wind-driven rovers for planetary exploration

G. A. Hajos, J. A. Jones, A. Behar, M. Dodd

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

41 Scopus citations

Abstract

The use of in-situ propulsion is considered enabling technology for long duration planetary surface missions. Most studies have focused on stored energy from chemicals extracted from the soil or the use of soil chemicals to produce photovoltaic arrays. An older form of in-situ propulsion is the use of wind power. Recent studies have shown potential for wind driven craft for exploration of Mars, Titan and Venus. The power of the wind, used for centuries to power wind mills and sailing ships, is now being applied to modern land craft. Efforts are now underway to use the wind to push exploration vehicles on other planets and moons in extended survey missions. Tumbleweed rovers are emerging as a new type of wind-driven science platform concept. Recent investigations by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) indicate that these light-weight, mostly spherical or quasi-spherical devices have potential for long distance surface exploration missions. As a power boat has unique capabilities, but relies on stored energy (fuel) to move the vessel, the Tumbleweed, like the sailing ships of the early explorers on earth, uses an unlimited resource - the wind -to move around the surface of Mars. This has the potential to reduc the major mass drivers of robotic rovers as well as the power generation and storage systems. Jacques Blamont of JPL and the University of Paris conceived the first documented Mars wind-blown ball in 1977, shortly after the Viking landers discovered that Mars has a thin CO2 atmosphere with relatively strong winds. In 1995, Jack Jones, et al, of JPL conceived of a large wind-blown inflated ball for Mars that could also be driven and steered by means of a motorized mass hanging beneath the rolling axis of the ball. A team at NASA Langley Research Center started a biomimetic Tumbleweed design study in 1998. Wind tunnel and CFD analysis were applied to a variety of concepts to optimize the aerodynamic characteristics of the Tumbleweed Rovers. Bare structures, structures carrying sails and a tumbleweed plant (of the Salsola genus) were tested in Langley's wind tunnels. Thomas Estier of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology developed a memory metal collapsible structure, the Windball. Numerous other researchers have also suggested spherical rovers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publication43rd AIAA Aerospace Sciences Meeting and Exhibit - Meeting Papers
Pages1491-1503
Number of pages13
StatePublished - 2005
Externally publishedYes
Event43rd AIAA Aerospace Sciences Meeting and Exhibit - Reno, NV, United States
Duration: Jan 10 2005Jan 13 2005

Other

Other43rd AIAA Aerospace Sciences Meeting and Exhibit
CountryUnited States
CityReno, NV
Period1/10/051/13/05

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Engineering(all)

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