Meet the plant-inspired robots we might use to colonize Mars

Within the early 2010s, when Zoobotics — robots impressed by the animal world — began taking off, one other sort of robotics additionally started to make its debut. The thought was initially proposed by Barbara Mazzolai, an Italian biologist-turned-engineer who noticed the potential of mixing how vegetation develop with robotics, making roboplants.

Whereas the thought of a roboplant may appear boring — in any case, vegetation don’t precisely transfer rapidly — the probabilities right here may open a number of doorways, particularly in terms of colonizing different planets. A giant a part of placing human boots on planets like Mars, for instance, is infrastructure, one thing roboplants may assist with.

For astronauts, infrastructure comes all the way down to major issues like shelter, meals, and water. Additional, as a result of Mars is so distant, the astronauts want a self-sustaining system that they’ll depend on with out having to attend on provides from Earth. That is the place the roboplants can come into play.

Crops won’t be thrilling movers, however they’re distinctive at digging by soil and discovering water and the vitamins they want. Some vegetation, like weeds, may even develop within the barest locations. So, what if we mixed that ground-moving capability with a robotic designed to search for those self same necessary parts people additionally want?

Not solely may it assist make the hunt for water on Mars extra environment friendly, but it surely may lay the infrastructure for NASA’s future missions to Mars, and even plans by individuals like Elon Musk to at some point colonize Mars. This concept of utilizing roboplants on Mars is damaged down very effectively in an excerpt from Dario Floreano and Nicola Nosengo’s e-book Tales From a Robotic World.

In response to Dario Floreano and Nicola Nosengo, roboplants like these envisioned by Barbara Mazzolai, roboplants couldn’t solely act as a method to seek for water and different vitamins, however they might additionally assist present necessary anchors on worlds the place gravity isn’t as robust as it’s on Earth.

It’s an intriguing case research, and one which undoubtedly deserves extra consideration. As NASA holds simulations to check how dwelling on Mars would work, maybe these plant-inspired robots may assist discover methods to remodel Mars soil, permitting colonies to at some point construct greenhouses able to rising sustainable farming.