Autonomous swarming robots, programmed to search like honeybees, could be the best strategy to explore caves on Mars that may harbor life.
Methane traces in the Martian atmosphere point to undiscovered activity — whether geological or biological — lurking beneath the surface. ”Something interesting is going on down there,” said Áron Kisdi, an engineer at the University of Southampton, U.K. “We just need to find it.”
In a paper March 3 in Acta Astronautica Kisdi presents a strategy that he believes offers the best way for robots to search large expanses of Mars for new caves, maximizing search area and minimizing search time.
In 2007 NASA’s Mars Odyssey spacecraft found seven large holes in the surface — too large and deep to be explored with rovers. Odyssey’s resolution isn’t fine enough, however, to reveal smaller caves. And these, if found, could be more accessible to rovers, with shallow entrances and narrower shafts.