Solar power is not just a great energy source on Earth, it can work on the Moon and Mars too. But there are some places that a solar-powered rover just can’t reach, like the Moon’s polar regions that are permanently in shadow. Now, ESA has outlined a new system where a lander shines a laser at a rover to keep it powered from miles away.
Flyovers by several orbiters have revealed that the Moon’s polar regions are home to high amounts of hydrogen, which suggests the presence of water ice. And that’s not entirely surprising – the bottoms of some of these craters never see any direct sunlight, and may not have for billions of years.
That makes these regions an enticing exploration opportunity. But the problem, of course, is that it’s a bit chilly for human astronauts, and even robots might have a hard time, particularly if they’re solar powered. But in a new study, an ESA team has proposed a system to power just such a rover.
The project is known as PHILIP, which is a classically clunky acronym for “Powering rovers by High Intensity Laser Induction on Planets.” And as the name suggests, it would use lasers to power rovers driving around in the dark.
The idea is that a lander and a rover would be sent together, setting down in a sunny spot on the lunar surface. The lander would be equipped with a solar panel, and pass that energy onto the rover by beaming a 500-watt infrared laser towards it.