Marsbees: NASA reveals 'plan bee' for Mars exploration

The Marsbees will give NASA more options for exploration.
The Marsbees will give NASA more options for exploration. Photo credit: NASA

NASA wants to release bees on Mars.

Since real bees would die pretty quickly in the red planet's thin atmosphere, the space agency is proposing packing its next rover with a swarm of what it's calling 'Marsbees'.

"Marsbees are robotic flapping wing flyers of a bumblebee size with cicada-sized wings," NASA said in a statement on its website.

"The Marsbees are integrated with sensors and wireless communication devices. The mobile base can act as a recharging station and main communication centre."

NASA's Spirit rover on Mars.
NASA's Spirit rover on Mars. Photo credit: NASA

The benefits tiny cube-shaped bees have over car-sized rovers could be numerous. They're light and easy to pack into tight payloads, and if one malfunctions it's not the end of the mission.

"Our preliminary numerical results suggest that a bumblebee with a cicada wing can generate sufficient lift to hover in the Martian atmosphere," said team member Chang-kwon Kang of the University of Alabama.

They'll be able to fly high and give scientists a better view of Mars, much like drones do on Earth. 

NASA is collaborating on the project with scientists in Japan, who are already testing a first-generation swarm.