NASA In Search of Life
Nasa plans to send shapeshifter robots to the mysterious, alien moons around Saturn.
The Shapeshifter robots are Visionary robots by NASA. It can help us learn more about the alien worlds’ surface. It may also help shed light on whether they could support life.
The Shapeshifter robot is intended to head to Saturn’s moon Titan. According to Ali Agha Titan is the only place, expect the earth, in our solar system known to have liquid in the form of methane lakes, rivers and seas that are on its surface. He is the principal investigator at Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
Nasa has discovered about Titan through the flybys that were carried out by the Cassini mission. These journeyed past the Titan more than a hundred times. It extensively mapped the surface of the Saturn’s moon and found that it appeared strikingly similar to Earth. Surprisingly its lakes and rain are made out of methane and ethane, which are gasses on Earth.
NASA In Search of Life- The New Approach
The scientists at NASA still want to learn more about what is happening on Titan’s surface. According to Agha, scientists have limited information about these surface. He hypothesizes that there may be Rocky terrain, methane lakes, cryovolcanoes on Titan’s surface.
To overcome this challenge, scientists thought to create a system that is versatile and capable of traversing different types of terrain. They want to create a system that is compact enough to launch it with the aid of a rocket.
Watch this exciting video to know more about Shapeshifter
To examine that surface, Agha and the Shapeshifter team build a concept for a robot that is made out of a host of other smaller robots, called “cobots.”
These cobots would include a small propeller and would be able to fly around the world independently. It could connect to create long chains to dive deep under the surface, or even group together into a ball to roll across and save energy.
The cobots are currently semi-autonomous, but Nasa will need to build robots that can stick themselves together without being directed to do so from Earth.
Agha imagines that the shapeshifters will drop out of a mothership, which would fall onto the surface by a parachute. That would serve as an energy source and also look like the scientific instruments that can be used to analyze samples.
NASA In Search of Life- What’s Next
This concept will be submitted to Nasa’s Advanced Concepts Initiative in 2020, with the hope of having it approved for more work. But it may take some time until it arrives, as one of Nasa’s spacecraft known as Dragonfly is scheduled to launch in 2026.