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Space & Astronomy

NASA plans to send robotic eel to Europa

By T.K. Randall
May 11, 2015 · Comment icon 19 comments



A concept image showing the proposed design of the eel-like rover. Image Credit: NASA
An unconventional type of rover could be used to explore the oceans beneath Jupiter's icy moon.
With its thick layer of surface ice and the potential for a vast subterranean ocean of liquid water, Europa remains one of the most tantalizing destinations in the solar system and one of the most likely places to find evidence of microbial alien life.

Exploring this freezing, distant moon however represents a significant technological challenge. Sending a conventional wheeled rover would be impractical both for traversing the icy surface and for exploring the oceans underneath.
To get around this problem, NASA has been funding a feasibility study in to a new type of underwater rover that would move a lot like a squid does as it travels through the water.

"This rover resembles a squid, with tentacle-like structures that serve both as electrodynamic tethers to harvest power from locally changing magnetic fields and as a means of bio-inspired propulsion," wrote Cornell University's Mason Peck who originally proposed the concept.

While still at the drawing board stage, this unusual rover design could make it possible for a future mission to explore beneath the ice and discover what lurks within Europa's oceans.

Source: The Register | Comments (19)


Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #10 Posted by BeastieRunner 7 years ago
That is a really cool idea. I hope they find some neat forms of life there because of this.
Comment icon #11 Posted by xxxdemonxxx 7 years ago
Wonderful. Better make it unattractive tho.
Comment icon #12 Posted by theotherguy 7 years ago
And then the robot space eel got eaten by something under the ice. But seriously, if this doesn't get results, I'm not sure anything in this solar system will. No word on when it's supposed to start production, though.
Comment icon #13 Posted by qxcontinuum 7 years ago
about time to stop wasting money and resources on dead planet like Mars
Comment icon #14 Posted by Sormac 7 years ago
All effort should be made to explore Europa and Enceladus. If active life exists in the abundance we think it exists in the universe, these two places are were we are going to find it within our solar system.
Comment icon #15 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf 7 years ago
about time to stop wasting money and resources on dead planet like Mars And you know Mars is a dead planet how exactly? Considering the world's greatest experts don't know one way or the other I look forward to your explanation of how you know more than them.
Comment icon #16 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf 7 years ago
It could release a sterilizing agent into the ice as it bored through it and then it wouldn't contaminate what possible life exists there. This would be an extremely bad idea. If you are looking for life then the one thing you don't want to be doing is sterilizing the very area you are studying, it's the one way of guaranteeing you won't find anything. All NASA planetary missions are built in clean rooms and sterilized before launch. The chances of contaminating Europa will be minimal.
Comment icon #17 Posted by Sormac 7 years ago
And you know Mars is a dead planet how exactly? Considering the world's greatest experts don't know one way or the other I look forward to your explanation of how you know more than them. Guess it depends on what someone means by "dead planet."
Comment icon #18 Posted by Noteverythingisaconspiracy 7 years ago
We need a nuclear device that generates plasma in a protective cone to melt through the surface ice and rock into the oceans below. The trick would be to shield the electronics from heat with a magnetic shield used in plasma reactors. Communications will be a huge challenge also. I am not entirely sure what you mean by that ? Do you mean by plasma reactor ? Why would you need to go through rock to find what is under the ice ? This seem like an extremely elaborate solution to a problem that doesn't really exist. about time to stop wasting money and resources on dead planet like Mars Why is the ... [More]
Comment icon #19 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf 7 years ago
Guess it depends on what someone means by "dead planet." Well they could mean geologically dead or they could mean devoid of living organisms. In either case my point still stands. Experts are not sure about Mars in either of these cases and yet qxcontinuum, who consistently demonstrates an abject lack of scientific knowledge, claims he knows the answer. I'm simply interested to know how he, a person with virtually no scientific capability, knows something the experts don't.


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