This is one of the earliest co-inventions with my son, Woden.
Back in 1990, when Woden was in Kindergarten at the Marks Meadow School in Amherst, we noticed that the mesh ball skeleta from the seed pods of certain plants would be ideal vehicles for exploring windy planets (like Mars).
The balls could be stored in compressed form inside a balloon-like skin which would inflate before reaching the surface of the planet (these balloons, when inflated in the upper atmosphere of the planet, might additionally serve as parachutes to slow the vehicles down upon entry, instead of using fuel in retrorockets); this skin would tear away to reveal the instruments protected at the center of the mesh ball as it tumbles over the surface of the planet.
It seems that NASA engineers, unaware of our prior work, are thinking of patenting such a device (September 2001). We encourarage NASA to contact us for additional ideas before filing the patent -- we would be happy to share these ideas freely with them.