Engineers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) are testing a spacecraft concept that will allow them to study the Moon, asteroids, and other space objects. They developed a flying saucer-style rover that should hover over the lunar surface thanks to the force of electrostatic repulsion, ScienceAlert reports.
According to scientists' plans, the hovering rover will be powered by an electric field generated due to direct exposure to the sun. The Moon has no atmosphere to protect it, so its surface is directly affected by cosmic plasma and solar ultraviolet light. Because of this, the surface of the Earth's satellite gets a charge strong enough to levitate dust up to a meter high.
Scientists have decided that this energy can be used to power the spacecraft. The saucer has two small nozzles known as ion thrusters or ionic-liquid ion sources, which are connected to a reservoir with fuel in the form of ionic liquid (room-temperature molten salt). When hit with an electric charge, the liquid shoots through the nozzles as a beam with a certain force.
MIT engineers have successfully tested the prototype that weighs about 60 grams, forcing the small vehicle to levitate.