Sure, NASA might not have the bucks to mount a legit mission to Mars for another decade or so, but that hasn’t stopped the rest of the world from catching Red Planet fever as of late.
The latest upstart trying to get a piece of Mars? The Canadian company Thoth Technology and its proposed Northern Light mission, which aims to send a mini-rover to the Red Planet in 2018. According to Space, the Northern Light mission will look for biomarker gases (those that could indicate biological sources) like methane. The rover will also be equipped to “grind” into rocks to study the layers, which could reveal the previous state of the Martian environment.
The proposed rover, lander and instrument package would weigh a total of 165 pounds and include some cutting-edge tech the team believes will make the 90-day mission extremely productive. Instead of taking the monotonous process of controlling the rover from Earth all the time, Northern Light’s rover would have sensors to detect its environment and make real-time decisions to stop or turn as needed to avoid obstacles.
This approach would, theoretically, allow the craft to continue to explore even when they don’t have a connection — taking advantage of every moment the rover has solar power and juice to run. The lander would, theoretically, be able to “roam” up to 0.6 miles away from the landing site for autonomous exploration.
The only problem with this awesome idea? They’re crowdfunding the project and are woefully short of the $980,000 goal on IndieGoGo. But it’s open until Jan. 3, so there’s still time for the world to rally around this intriguing Mars mission. Even if the crowfunding plan fails, the company hopes to find a way to get the rover into space. But with no money, that's a much trickier proposition.