An engineer from the University of Southampton, UK recently wrote a paper in which he mentioned that the best way for robots to explore mars would be to send swarms of rolling, jumping robots. These Jollbots, as they were called, would be released simultaneously as a swarm of 40-60 robots that travel around the surface of mars, autonomously and randomly scouting for caves. If a robot discovers a cave – sensed by a difference in temperature, it returns by the shortest route to the lander, where it came from, and uploads the coordinates and readings to it. The Jollbot checks the lander for readings from other Jollbots and decides to search a new spot or a cave previously discovered. When it has chosen a spot, the process repeats. After a few iterations of the process, the bots then decide if they’ve discovered a site that is good enough for mission control to investigate or they ignore it and move on. By using this method, it ensures that the more sophisticated, expensive robots won’t be wasted by being sent over to locations of no interest. Another advantage to these Jollbots is that they will be much cheaper to build, and if one robot gets damaged or destroyed, the rest of them can still go on with their jobs. Sounds like a pretty interesting idea that NASA and other space administrations can utilize to improve their planet exploration abilities. But there’s always the chance of the Jollbots flagging an area as uninteresting due to an error or a miscalculation.
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