Scientists are designing a Mars Rover that looks an awful lot like BB-8

You gotta roll with it


Science fiction has proved itself pretty effective at predicting the future, from Skype calls to touch screens to surveillance states. But has Star Wars paved the way for a new way to explore Mars?


Enter aerospace engineer Andre Mazzoleni, who is currently working on a new spherical design for a Mars Rover that looks an awful lot like the BB-8 droid from Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

“We’ve been working on a variety of spherical rovers for several years, so it was fun to see a spherical rover in Star Wars,” the scientist from North Carolina State University told Popular Science. “Everyone in our lab is a huge Star Wars fan.”

So how does this new rolling Rover work?


All Mars Rovers currently use wheels to get around, which is great – until they get stuck in a ditch 225 million km away from the nearest AA van.

The answer, at least according to Mazzoleni, is to create a vehicle that can transform from a six-wheeled Rover into a rolling ball at the flick of a switch (see images above), allowing it to roll down steep slopes without toppling over.

It’s called the Transforming Roving–Rolling Explorer (TRREx for short). And Mazzoleni believes this Star Wars / Transformers hybrid could be the key to future Mars missions.

“I would imagine BB-8 would struggle to climb up a moderately steep incline, but TRREx can easily navigate up a slope when in roving mode,” he says.


The future’s bright. The future’s round.