This might be our foremost chance at discovering extraterrestrial life
Â NASA has a plan to use a robot to explore the icy oceans of a planetary body 390 million of miles apartâ€”and it could be our best chance at finding extraterrestrial life. But first, theyâ€™re practicing in our own unexplored waters.
There is likely a massive worldwide sea of water underneath the icy crust of Jupiterâ€™s moon Europa, and that water could be teaming with life, as specified to a recent study published in Geophysical scrutiny Letters. Of course, the only way to find out for sure is to send an exploratory robot. But a wheeled rover like Curiosity isnâ€™t going to do much good with an environment like Europaâ€™s. No an underwater drone NASA wants to send.
Scientists are carrying out trials/tests with ARTEMIS, a 25-foot-long unmanned underwater vehicle To test the cold waters of this ambitious plan. Researchers in Antarctica have been submerging ARTEMIS into near-freezing temperatures to study the Ross Ice Shelfâ€”at Â Â approximately the size of France, it is the largest ice shelf in the area. The ice reaches a density of 2,000 feet in places, but the ARTEMIS team was able to get the machine underwater by drilling through an adequately thin area of ice that is only 20-feet thick. Once underwater, the robot can travel autonomously for miles and return to the point of beginning.
â€œGetting something to go through a gouged hole in the ice and then go off on long range missions is something that no one has done prior to this present time,â€ Bill Stone told National Science Foundationâ€™s communication The Antarctic Sun. â€œIt can be well ordered to go with a development of directional points, wherever you want it to go. And it will accomplish a succession of behaviors that we want it to do alongside.â€
ARTEMIS is the most contemporary drone to come out of the NASA-funded Sub-ice evaluation of Marine and Planetary-analog Ecosystems (SIMPLE), a program committed to developing robots that can explore the Earthâ€™s most uninviting region. Of course, ARTEMIS is a cry from technology that could gouge through Europaâ€™s frozen crustâ€”which could be up 10 to 20 miles thick at some placesâ€”and then traverse an aquatic alien world. And anything NASA sends to Europa would have to be much smaller and lighter than ARTEMIS, and to an extent more technologically advanced.
Antarctica is the closest thing weâ€™ve got right now, and this is the best way for researchers to ascertain the enormous difficulties of exploring ice-covered oceans and how to make the technology more productive.
As for getting the monotonously into the waterâ€”NASA is already working toward that. Sometime in the succeeding decade or so, theyâ€™re sending a probe to Europa that will scan the exterior with ice-penetrating radar and ascertain the thinnest area. If the ice is thin enough to be edified by a craft Lander, then it might not be long before we can ascertain whether we have distant alien marine neighbors.