ANTS is the acronym
for a proposed NASA
to send out one thousand probe
s into the asteroid belt
in an attempt to learn more about the conditions on individual rock
Standing for Autonomous Nano Technology Swarm, ANTS is the brainchild of Steven Curtis from the Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland. He proposes a mission where by a series of drones are released in waves of one hundred from the outer reaches of the Earths' gravity. Each sensor packed unit will unfurl a 100 square metre solar sail in an attempt to catch the solar wind and be 'blown' to Mars in a journey taking approximately three years.
The idea is that these worker probes would report back to a leader, a probe roughly the same size but packed with computers to coordinate the swarm's data. Once a leader has collected a full load, it transfers it all to a messenger which flies back to Earth.