Why send truck-sized rovers when you can send nanobots?
By Becky FerreiraPosted 08.02.2012 at 11:22 am 4 Comments
NASA's Mars rover Curiosity, scheduled to reach the red planet this Sunday, is the size of an SUV for good reason: It's built to carry 165 pounds of scientific instruments over boulders and into gullies. But putting Hummer-size robots on other planets is not altogether practical. For one, it's expensive. (Getting a Curiosity-weight rover to Mars takes more than a million pounds of fuel.) Large rovers are also power-hungry and limited in range. For future missions, some researchers, eager to do more science with fewer resources, have begun looking to nanobots—each one about one-one-billionth as big as Curiosity.
There's something magnificently creepy about this tiny bot, just one millimeter wide, developed at Israel's Technion University. Maybe it's the resemblance to a twitching tick or flea, or the fact that it's so small there could be insectile bots all around you right now and you'd hardly notice. (The robot, called Virob, has no internal power source--it derives its power from external magnetic fields.
Or maybe it's that the bug is designed to infiltrate human veins, autonomously crawling around our circulatory systems, taking pictures and poking its feelers where no 'bot has gone before.