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'Mars Hopper' Concept Could See A British Robot Leaping On Red Planet

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Britain might be about to send its own robot to Mars. And while it might not be quite as impressive as Nasa's Curiosity - it won't be the size of a car, and it won't descend onto the planet with a rocket-powered Sky Crane - in its own way it will show Mars something it's never seen before.

It will hop.

The BBC reports that a research group led from Leicester University and the Astrium space corporation is developing ideas for a Martian robot which forgoes wheels for a 'leaping' movement system that can send it bounding from one crater to another.

The hopping robot would be powered by a "radioisotope thermal rocket engine" which would use CO2 from the Martian air, compressed and exposed to a radioactive source, to propel it through the sky.

Their research suggests that leaps of 900 metres are possible - without having to bring costly rocket fuel to the planet.

First proposed three years ago, the idea has gathered steam and the team has now revealed new details about the engine, and also the legs - which would obviously be crucial in such a bold design.

Head over to the BBC for full details about the proposal, which is still in the early stages.

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