How would you explore a planet with no solid ground? NASA has an idea—and they got it from looking at dandelion seeds! NASA plans to build a Windbot drone that will float in the planet’s atmosphere and does not need any ground to land on! Scientists hope the windbot will let them explore the worlds of Jupiter and Saturn, something no other drone has been able to do.
Jupiter and Saturn are very hard to explore. Not only do these gas giants have not solid ground at all, they also have very heavy atmospheres. That means anything that goes to the planet will need to be able to survive a lot of pressure—much like when a submarine travels to the bottom of the ocean. The last probe that was sent to Jupiter’s atmosphere lasted only an hour before it was destroyed and never heard from again!
The new windbot drone from NASA would be able to handle the dangers of Jupiter and the other gas giants. Dr. Adrian Stoica got the idea for the drone from dandelion seeds, which are very good at staying up the air. “It rotates as it falls,” he said, “creating lift, which allows it to stay afloat for long time, carried by the wind. We’ll be exploring this effect on windbot designs.”
The windbot drone would be able to float in Jupiter’s atmosphere by riding on the winds. This would keep the drone from falling too close to the center of the planet, where it would be crushed. The drone could also have rotors on the sides so it can be steered around the planet, and sides of the drone could open up like wings to help it stay aloft. And for power, the windbot could charge its battery using kinetic energy (energy created by motion) from bouncing on the wind.
The windbot is still in the concept stage, which means it is still just an idea. NASA is excited by the idea, though, and hope that we have come even closer to finally exploring some of our most mysterious neighbors.