The US space agency NASA are readying a robot to take the plunge into the waters of another world. This robot is designed to search for signs of life. The plan is to send one into the oceans of Europa, Jupiter’s smallest moon.
NASA scientist Kevin Hand told ABC News: “It presents an incredibly compelling place to go and search for possible life beyond Earth.
“Potentially answering that age-old question: are we alone?”
First the rover-style robot is heading to Antarctica.
Australia’s Antarctic division are helping NASA scientists to test the robot.
It will head to the Casey Research Station for several weeks to make sure it could function in the icy oceans of Europa.
This will include rolling on the underside of the sea ice.
That’s where NASA scientists believe alien life on Europa would be most evident.
Mr Hand said: “Within Europa’s ice shell, there are nutrients that life within that ocean might eat.”
Mr Hand continued: “That microbes or even larger creatures might like to consume.”
Before they can send the robot to Europa, scientists need to find a way through the 10km thick ice sheets that cover the oceans
Dan Berisford, a NASA Engineer on the project, offered some solutions: “It could be a thermal melt probe that just slowly melts through that 10km of ice or some kind of mechanical drill or some combination.”
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Mr Berisford added: “That is a very big piece of the technology puzzle.”
NASA confirmed the robot’s mission to Europa is probably decades away.
According to the agency, the the icy moon is one of the highest priority targets in their search for extraterrestrial life.
A team led by researchers out of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center have already confirmed traces of water vapour above the surface of Europa.
There is enough water vapour being released from the Jupiter moon to fill an Olympic-size swimming pool within minutes.
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