Wednesday, December 7, 2022
Contact    |    RSS icon Twitter icon Facebook icon  
You are viewing: Home > News > Space & Astronomy > News story
Welcome Guest ( Login or Register )  
Space & Astronomy

'Cryobot' could tunnel beneath Europa's ice

By T.K. Randall
June 15, 2015 · Comment icon 4 comments



An artist's impression of a cryobot exploring Europa's ocean. Image Credit: NASA
Scientists are developing a robot designed to explore the ocean beneath Jupiter's icy moon.
With NASA planning to send a spacecraft to Europa in the not-too-distant future, efforts have been underway to design a probe capable of venturing down in to the liquid water ocean below its surface.

Getting a probe down beneath the ice is certainly no easy task - not only would it have to land on Europa first but it would then need to somehow burrow down through several miles of thick ice and remain operational once it hits the water.

"One major challenge is how such a probe would be able to communicate to the surface once it starts to descend," said planetary scientist Louise Prockter. "The cryobot would also need to be able to withstand significant pressures underneath the ice."

"We're still a long way from having the technology to do that."
Nonetheless explorer and engineer Bill Stone, founder of robot design company Stone Aerospace, believes that he has come up a device that could actually make such a mission possible.

Known as VALKYRIE (Very deep Autonomous Laser-powered Kilowatt-class Yo-yoing Robotic Ice Explorer), the sophisticated cryobot uses the heat from lasers to make its way down through the ice while a fiber-optic cable connected to the device maintains power and communications.

While the current 5 kilowatt version is a lot smaller than what would be needed in an actual mission to Europa the concept has been successfully tested and does appear to work.

"We've been doing a 5 kilowatt test only because of budget limitations," said Stone. "I can build, today, a 250 kilowatt laser-powered cryobot. It would cost more money but we could illustrate it in Antarctica and show that we can go through kilometers of ice."

Source: Space.com | Comments (4)


Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by tipotep 8 years ago
I hope they can make this happen, I have always been fascinated by Europa, Surely there is some sort of life below the ice?
Comment icon #2 Posted by DieChecker 8 years ago
They'll probably have to freeze the tunnel behind the robot, to prevent it shooting back out the hole once it reaches pressurized water. Dragging the fiber optic cable through miles of re-frozen ice could be problematic. Most fiber optic cable will weigh about 5 pounds per 1000 feet, so for 50 miles of ice, that would be about 1300 pounds of cable the robot would have to be carrying. Not going to happen, I think. If it were me, I might look into a series of relays that the robot drops off behind it, as it melts through the ice. If they were directional, they might be able to transmit quite a g... [More]
Comment icon #3 Posted by Merc14 8 years ago
They'll probably have to freeze the tunnel behind the robot, to prevent it shooting back out the hole once it reaches pressurized water. Dragging the fiber optic cable through miles of re-frozen ice could be problematic. Most fiber optic cable will weigh about 5 pounds per 1000 feet, so for 50 miles of ice, that would be about 1300 pounds of cable the robot would have to be carrying. Not going to happen, I think. If it were me, I might look into a series of relays that the robot drops off behind it, as it melts through the ice. If they were directional, they might be able to transmit quite a g... [More]
Comment icon #4 Posted by paperdyer 8 years ago
AS the article shows a picture of "Cryobot" in a tunnel it melted, I'd think the initial hole would freeze behind the probe pretty quickly. If cables were used, wouldn't the cables need to be heated so they wouldn't freeze into the ice making it impossible for the probe to go further? It does seem like relay stations are the best option.


Please Login or Register to post a comment.


Our new book is out now!

The Unexplained Mysteries
Book of Weird News

 AVAILABLE NOW 

Take a walk on the weird side with this compilation of some of the weirdest stories ever to grace the pages of a newspaper.

Click here to learn more

We need your help!

Support us on Patreon

 BONUS CONTENT 

For less than the cost of a cup of coffee, you can gain access to a wide range of exclusive perks including our popular 'Lost Ghost Stories' series.

Click here to learn more

 Total Posts: 7,368,902    Topics: 303,264    Members: 199,005

 Not a member yet ? Click here to join - registration is free and only takes a moment!
Recent news and articles