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A femto probe is a probe that weights less than 100 grams. I would expect that it's not much more than:

  • Omnidirectional antenna (locating Earth would require relatively heavy equipment, right?)
  • Power source (solar cell or an unrechargable battery, depends on destination)
  • Micro computer chip
  • Super tiny flywheels for rotation
  • Thermal control system
  • Ultralight sensors (thermistor, photoresistor, could you suggest more?)
  • Single scientific device. E.g. I found an of the shelf camera that weighted a little more than 1 gram

Could it do some useful science? If yes, why no space exploration agency has tried sending a bunch of them? Seems to be cheaper, more reliable (redundancy) and can be at many locations at once.

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  • $\begingroup$ Microlaunchers is more or less a one man show with a dream one has to admire. I'm not the brain to evaluate the feasibility of his interplanetary(!) probe design, using solar pressure for stability, locating Earth by image analysis of its crest, and laser communication to amateur telescopes. It all sounds at least half doable. He's a guy who has thought about this and you might have something to dig into there. His old website His idea to launch them individually might not be economical, that much I can say. $\endgroup$ – LocalFluff Dec 18 '14 at 12:13
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Their primary advantage is in numbers. A single such probe would hardly be useful.

As a swarm, they could cover a large area, network together (just relay communication to next probe in range) and depend on a larger probe to pass data back to Earth. They could be used to map various fields - magnetic field, gas distribution, acting as a really big radiotelescope array, map chemical composition of objects (asteroids etc) and so on.

Unlike sensors that can either depend on reflected radiation (camera, radar, ultrasound, emission spectrum) or examine just local properties of given object/space right where they are, a swarm of nanoprobes is good for mapping large area for properties that can't be sensed remotely, or for compiling a wide-angle reception of reflected radiation that varies with angle. Also, thanks to numbers, they'd be efficient in pinpointing interesting locations for more detailed analysis - e.g. finding unique chemicals in the vicinity, and monitoring large areas for changes.

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