Friday, January 6, 2012

NASA / Naval Research Laboratory
An illustration of how tiny space robots could power themselves with Earth microbes.
updated 1/6/2012 2:32:56 PM ET
Today's robotic space missions take careful steps to avoid carrying tiny bacterial life from Earth that could contaminate the surface of Mars or other planets. That may all change if a NASA-funded effort can harness microbes as an almost endless power source for the next generation of robotic explorers.
Such microbial fuel cells could power space robots almost indefinitely, as long as their bacteria have the tiny amounts of food needed to stay alive and create electricity through their chemical reactions. That would offer an alternative to space missions that rely upon either nuclear or solar power for their batteries — NASA's Spirit Mars rover was officially declared dead last May after the Red Planet's harsh winter deprived it of sunlight for its solar panels.



Glenn A. Walsh, Project Director,
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