Scientists have created a new hovering lunar robot that can levitate using the moon’s natural energy.

The design resembles an old flying saucer.

MIT aerospace engineers claim that their surfaces are exposed to sunlight and the formation of an electric field. 

The moon’s surface charge can lift moon dust 3ft higher than the ground. This is similar to how static electricity causes hair to stand up. 

The MIT team uses small ion beams and disc-shaped shapes to power the vehicle.

Although it is a prototype at this point, the team believes that it will work as expected.

Future missions to the moon or asteroids may include rovers equipped with ion thrusters, which allow them to hover safely and move over uncharted terrain. 

The device, which resembles a classic flying saucer, works by taking advantage of the electric field that builds up on the moon and other airless bodies like asteroids

It is similar to a traditional flying saucer. The electric field created on the moon or other non-airless bodies such as asteroids creates the device’s power.


The team’s levitating design relies on the use of miniature ion thrusters, called ionic-liquid ion sources. 

These microfabricated nozzles connect to a reservoir which contains an ionic fluid in the form room-temperature mole salt. 

When a voltage is applied, the liquid’s ions are charged and emitted as a beam through the nozzles with a certain force. 

This simple model predicts that a small rover weighing around two pounds could attain levitation of approximately one centimeter above the ground on a large asteroid like Psyche using a 10-kilovolt ion generator.

A 50-kilovolt source would be required to achieve a similar liftoff from the moon. 

The use of tiny ion beams produces an overall effect designed to create a large repulsive force against the vehicle.

The team discovered that ion booster could provide enough power to enable a vehicle weighing 2 lb on the moon or a larger asteroid like Psyche.  

According to Oliver JiaRichards (MIT graduate student), “We envision this as the Hayabusa mission that was launched by Japan’s space agency,” according to the lead author. 

“That spacecraft was designed to orbit a small, rocky asteroid and send small rovers to its surface. Similar to that mission, we believe a future mission may send out smaller hovering robots to the moon’s surface.

 The thrusters they used are known as iconic-liquid ion sources, and are small micro-fabricated nozzles connected to a reservoir containing ionic liquid.

The liquid comes in the form room-temperature, molten sodium. A voltage applied charges the liquid and then emits a beam through nozzles. 

The work, led by Paulo Lozano, builds on previous work by the team that saw them develop ion thrusters to propel and move small satellites in space.  

This led him to explore the possibility of applying this to research on the effect of lunar dust’s surface charge and moon’s levitating effects.

A new hovering lunar rover has been developed by scientists, who say it will be able to levitate by harnessing the moon's natural charge

Scientists have created a new hovering lunar robot that can levitate using the moon’s natural energy.

He was curious to know if a Rover fitted with ion thrusters could produce sufficient electrostatic force to hover over the Moon and other larger asteroids.

To charge the vehicle, they first designed a small disc-shaped rover.

They then had thrusters emit negatively charged ions from the front. This gave the space a positive charge, similar to that on the moon surface.

These were not sufficient to propel the car off the ground. 

“Then, we considered the possibility of transferring our charge to the surface in order to increase its natural charge. Jia-Richards explained.

Using tiny ion beams creates an overall effect that is designed to generate a relatively large repulsive force between the vehicle and the ground

The use of tiny ion beams produces an overall effect designed to create a large repulsive force that acts between the vehicle’s ground and it.


Initial testing of the concept was done by the team using a small disc-shaped robot with ion thrusters to charge up the vehicle. 

They modelled the thrusters to beam negatively charged ions out from the vehicle, which effectively gave the vehicle a positive charge, similar to the moon’s positively charged surface. 

They found that this wasn’t enough to lift the car off the ground.

“Then we thought, what if we transfer our own charge to the surface to supplement its natural charge?” Jia-Richards says.

By pointing additional thrusters at the ground and beaming out positive ions to amplify the surface’s charge, the team reasoned that the boost could produce a bigger force against the rover, enough to levitate it off the ground. 

A simple mathematical model was created to represent the scenario. It proved successful in principle.

To amplify the charge on the surface, they pointed additional thrusters at it and sent out positive ions.

The idea was that this would increase overall power against the rover and generate enough force to lift it from the ground.

This would be mathematically possible. The moon would need a tiny, two-pound rover to reach the surface of the earth.

A 10-kilovolt ion generator would suffice for an asteroid, like Psyche. But, they would need to have 50-kilovolts to make it work on the Moon.

Lozano explained that this type of ionic design requires very little power to generate large amounts of voltage. He also said that the power required is so low, it could be done almost free.

This was followed by a practical example. The small hexagonal vehicle used for testing was 60 grams and roughly the size of an average human hand.

One ion thruster was aimed up, and four were aimed down. The vehicle was then suspended over an aluminum surface with two springs. 

This setup was set up in a vacuum chamber, to mimic the atmosphere of the moon or asteroids.

They measured various voltages generated by the thrusters to determine the vehicle’s potential height.

The experiment they conducted matched the mathematical model. They believe that Psyche or the Moon might be able to host future levitating rovers. 

Lozano explained that, in principle, with more moderation, it is possible to lift to higher heights. With rovers capable of working over uneven or unknown terrain, Lozano believes this could be achieved. 

Lozano states that a levitating vehicle is able to move around without the need for moving parts or wheels. 

“Asteroids can have very uneven terrain. If you have a way to control your rover so it doesn’t sink, you’ll be able go through extremely difficult terrain and not need to get hit by the asteroid. 

These results are published in Journal of Spacecraft and Rockets.

NASA will be the first to land a woman and a man on the moon by 2024 in the Artemis mission

Artemis was Apollo’s twin sister and the goddess of the moon, according to Greek mythology. 

NASA has chosen her to personify its path back to the moon, which will see astronauts return to the lunar surface by 2024 –  including the first woman and the next man.

Artemis 1 (formerly Exploration Mission-1) is the first mission in a series to enable humans exploration of Mars and the moon. 

Artemis 1 will be the first integrated flight test of NASA’s deep space exploration system: the Orion spacecraft, Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and the ground systems at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.  

Artemis 1 will not be crewed and provide the foundation for deep space exploration and human civilization to the moon. 

The spacecraft will fly further than any human-made spacecraft ever.

The spacecraft will be able to travel approximately 280,000 miles (405,600 km) away from Earth and thousands more miles than the moon in a period of three weeks. 

Artemis 1, formerly Exploration Mission-1, is the first in a series of increasingly complex missions that will enable human exploration to the moon and Mars. This graphic explains the various stages of the mission

Artemis 1 (formerly Exploration Mission-1) is one of several increasingly complicated missions that will permit human exploration to Mars and the moon. The mission’s stages are explained in this graphic

Orion will remain in space for longer than any other ship designed to carry astronauts, and it will return home hotter and faster than ever before. 

NASA has launched the first deep space exploration mission. It will be the beginning of the next step towards human exploration in deep space. NASA astronauts are building and testing systems for the lunar surface and exploring other locations farther than Earth. 

The will take crew on a different trajectory and test Orion’s critical systems with humans aboard. 

Orion and SLS will work together to support the crew and cargo needs of the deepest space missions.

NASA hopes to have a permanent human presence on the Moon by 2028, as part of its Artemis mission.

This colony is expected to make new discoveries and demonstrate technological advances, as well as lay the groundwork for private companies that will build an economy on the moon.