Telescopes are our initial tools for revealing and studying foreign worlds.
Orbiters, landers, and rovers come next, returning high-quality surface data.
But recent innovations, like Martian helicopter flights, showcase greater possibilities.
These five novel technologies could revolutionize planetary exploration.
1.) Undersea ocean explorers. Many worlds, like Saturn’s Enceladus, possess ice-covered liquid oceans.
By melting through surface ice, extraterrestrial oceans become accessible.
Concurrently, autonomous underwater vehicles are similarly under development.
2.) A fleet of blimps. Venus, with hellish surface conditions, spells death for landers.
Filled with Earth-like air, however, blimps would stably hover at ~60 km altitude.
NASA’s HAVOC mission could thereby explore Venus, long-term, from above.
3.) Oxygen-powered flight. Here on Earth, oxygen supports combustion.
On Saturn’s Titan, however, only oxygen deprivation prevents its methane atmosphere from combusting.
Oxygen, 21% of Earth’s atmosphere, would serve as “rocket fuel” on Titan.
4.) Explore inside cryovolcanoes. Many worlds, like Triton, Europa, and potentially Pluto, contain cryovolcanoes.
A three-stage robotic system, including autonomous underwater vehicles, could reveal their interiors.
5.) Airless thrusters. Wings, propellers, and parachutes all won’t work without atmospheres.
But compressed air thrusters — refillable via surface/subsurface volatiles — can transport massive spacecraft.
On the Moon, Mercury, and asteroids, this maneuverability could enable space mining operations.