Asteroid Cleaner Robot To Sweep Up Dust Around The Solar System
Sometimes, space explorers really need to get down to the nitty gritty. As in, analyzing the dusty layers of low-gravity moons or asteroids. The ESA is ready with robots that collect and analyse the surface dust on far-away worlds. As you might imagine, it's tricky - in low gravity a simple drill or scoop would just push the lander away from the surface.
This prototype model uses three rotating brushes that also circle in the horizontal plane to scoop dust into a container for analysis. It is designed to collect at least 100 g within 20 seconds.
Designed and built by Added Value Solutions of Spain, the machine automatically detects the distance between the brushes and the surface to adapt as necessary, collect the dust, and direct it into a hermetically sealed box for storage and analysis.
Everything looks promising on Earth, but will it work without gravity? To check it in action, the prototype will fly on ESAís 64th parabolic aircraft campaign later this month, providing more than 90 bursts of microgravity lasting 20 seconds at a time.
Over the course of three days it will scoop up particles ranging from a few 0.001 mm up to pebbles of 3 cm. The samples can be analysed at the end of each day, and a camera will record progress so that the operators can adjust settings between the bouts of weightlessness.
I confess, of my own free will, that I've never encountered the idea of a asteroid dust-collecting robot in any of the science fiction I've read (if you know of one, ping me @technovelgy).
However, I thought this item was so appealing that I couldn't resist it. And here's a pretty similar idea.
Some readers may be thinking of Project Scoop, from Michael Crichton's 1969 novel The Andromeda Strain.
In theory, JPL was designing a satellite to enter the fringes of space and collect organisms and dust for study. This was considered a project of pure science...
In fact, the true aims were quite different.
The true aims of Scoop were to find new life forms that might benefit the Fort Detrick program. In essence, it was a study to discover new biological weapons of war.
In the novel, Project Scoop merely orbited the earth, and did not visit other worlds.
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