Space & Astronomy
NASA plans to send robotic eel to Europa
By T.K. Randall
May 11, 2015 · 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
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