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Dublin: 6 °C Friday 18 January, 2019

What's under the icy seas of Europa? NASA plans to find out

The hope is that a new prototype will be able to explore distant planets with potential habitable oceans.

europa Source: NASA

WHAT’S UNDER THE icy seas of other planets in our solar system, NASA has plans to find out.

A new rover is being tested over 7 metres underwater in California, that could one day go to Europa and other planetary bodies with a liquid ocean covered by ice.

While the buoyant rover can be used here on Earth to study the Arctic and Antarctic, researchers also envision that a technology like this could one day explore icy bodies in the solar system, and even look for signs of habitability and life.

Andy Klesh, principal investigator for the rover said:

A lot of what we do in deep space is applicable to the ocean.This is an early prototype for vehicles that could one day go to Europa and other planetary bodies with a liquid ocean covered by ice.
It’s ideal for traveling under the ice shelf of an icy world.
The rover would take images and collect other data to help scientists understand the important interface between ice and water.

diverandrover_main_1 The body of the Buoyant Rover for Under-Ice Exploration, developed at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Source: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The hope is that the rover will be able to explore extreme environments in our own oceans but also those on distant planet, with potential habitable oceans elsewhere in the solar system, said Kevin Hand, co-investigator for the rover and planetary scientist at Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena. 

“This was the first time an under-ice vehicle had been operated via satellite,” Klesh said.

We’re a long way off from exploring Europa’s ocean, but the young children visiting the California Science Center and seeing our robot could be the ones building the vehicles that go there,” Hand said.

The rover’s next destination will likely be near one of Earth’s poles.

Read: Scientists have built a lab 62 feet under the sea – but they aren’t using it to explore the ocean>

Read: This space suit isn’t from a new sci-fi movie. NASA astronauts might wear this to Mars>

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