Soon, Mars `hopper` to successfully negotiate obstacles on Red Planet

A team of scientists in the UK is planning to build a Mars "hopper" - a robot that can bounce across the surface of the Red Planet.

Last Updated: Sep 25, 2013, 12:54 PM IST

London: A team of scientists in the UK is planning to build a Mars "hopper" - a robot that can bounce across the surface of the Red Planet.

At the moment, landing missions use wheels to move around, but their progress can be stymied by sand-traps, steep slopes and boulder fields.

A hopper would simply leap across these obstacles to the next safest, flat surface.

The research group is led from Leicester University and the Astrium space company.

They propose the use of a vehicle powered by a radioisotope thermal rocket engine.

It would work like this: carbon dioxide would be extracted from the Martian air, compressed and liquefied.

Pumped into a chamber and exposed to the intense heat from a radioactive source, the CO2 would then explosively expand through a nozzle.

Calculations suggest the thrust achieved could enable a one-tonne craft to leap a distance of up to 900m at a time.

The team first proposed its concept hopper three years ago. Since then, it has been working to refine its ideas.

ANI