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I am doing a science fair project on space robots. I am trying to find out if space robots work better powered by batteries or solar panels. Can you suggest any experiments I may be able to do to come to a conclusion?
Question Date: 2007-03-28
Answer 1:

Either one requires chemistry, so you need some way to protect your robot's internal environment from the vacuum. Aside from that, it depends on your source of energy: if you're relatively close to the sun, then solar panels will be a very good, abundant, reliable source of energy. As you get farther from the sun, the amount of power you can derive from a solar source will become increasingly limited. Solar power is ultimately unlimited, however, and batteries aren't, so it depends on whether your robot's function is going to be one that will last, without maintenance, in perpetuity, or if it needs to do only one thing and then it isn't needed anymore.

Ideally, however, the best option is to use both. The Martian rovers Spirit and Opportunity use solar panels to charge their batteries so that they can still radio information back to Earth even if the sun sets.

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