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Space Science

NASA Tests a Drone To Explore Jupiter's Moon in Antarctica (popularmechanics.com) 65

Three months of research in Antarctica is just the beginning for one Georgia Tech researcher, according to an article shared by schwit1: The waters beneath our planet's ice sheet are fascinating, turning up species few people have ever laid eyes on. But they are not the final target of this chase. Icefin [a 10-foot-long subsea drone] is meant to search for alien life -- a "bug hunt," as some scientists cheerfully call it. It is bound for the icy waters of Jupiter's moon, Europa, possibly as soon as 2030...

The new equipment includes sensors to monitor for organics and measure environmental factors like the presence of dissolved oxygen and levels of acidity, all to see if Europa could (in theory) support life in its subterranean seas... The subsea drone is also smarter than its prototype predecessor, and that high-IQ autonomy would be needed on Europa. The probe must not only operate 400 million miles from Earth but also navigate all by itself under alien ice.

NASA Tests a Drone To Explore Jupiter's Moon in Antarctica

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  • I wasnt aware ... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by PPH ( 736903 ) on Sunday January 07, 2018 @11:54AM (#55880483)

    ... that Jupiter even had a moon in Antarctica.

  • Werenâ(TM)t we told to attempt no landing there?
    • Technically not going to be a landing, it's a probing.

      I'm sure that's fine.

    • I bet you're one of those people that thinks '1984' was an instruction manual.

  • Jupiter has a moon in Antarctica?
  • NASA doesn't make drones because drones do well defined repetitive tasks. NASA makes probes that explore the unknown. Even the program is called "Ross Ice Shelf and Europa Underwater Probe"

    Language matters.

    • Language matters but matters change. The word 'drone' has been appropriated to mean a whole bunch of things. Just be glad the lead picture wasn't a DJI Phantom.

      But this is a *great* idea. Oceanography really is a poor stepchild in funding giving the size, technical challenges and importance to the rest of the biosphere (I'll try to avoid making a Trump joke here. Oops). This gives us a way of 'calibrating' the probes (a better word) while getting useful baseline data.

      Guess there really are some smart p

      • Guess there really are some smart people doing science. Who knew?

        Anyone that knows anything about science.

  • Longtime lurker here. I got to interview a JPL NASA planetary chemist and astrobiologist to discuss his work on the Europa Clipper and other space-related things for my movie podcast. He plays a sound model of Europa's oceanic activity towards the end. For anyone interested fast forward past the movie talk to about 42 minutes to cut straight to the interview: http://thepestlepodcast.com/st... [thepestlepodcast.com]
  • I have been under the impression Europa's ice cover is expected to be something like 100 km thick. It seems like a flight of fantasy to try to penetrate through that..?

    Other than that, I'm certainly all for sending a probe to Europa. I think the first probe could concentrate on analysing the ice cover in great detail.

    • by BlueStrat ( 756137 ) on Sunday January 07, 2018 @02:36PM (#55881225)

      I have been under the impression Europa's ice cover is expected to be something like 100 km thick. It seems like a flight of fantasy to try to penetrate through that..?

      Other than that, I'm certainly all for sending a probe to Europa. I think the first probe could concentrate on analysing the ice cover in great detail.

      Don't have time to find it again, but I read a piece a while back on this Europa underwater probe project that said that radar showed there were places where Europa's ice was much, much thinner such that reaching the liquid underneath isn't an outright impossibility for a relatively small interplanetary probe, I think it was near Europa's polar geysers which would make sense. Also, the areas around these geysers would be a prime place to search for life, as energy sources for biological life that far out from the sun are few. Ecosystems may exist around the vents somewhat similar to life around undersea volcanic vents on Earth.

      Strat

    • More like 100m to 30km: http://kiss.caltech.edu/worksh... [caltech.edu]

      Most of it may be quite thick, but some surface features suggest thinner regions covering near-surface lakes.

      • Either way beyond our capabilities to penetrate. Nothing we've ever sent to space has excavated anything beyond cm or perhaps a few metres that I'm aware. Also from what I remember the underwater properties is only postulated at. Perhaps sending a simple drill and a ice fishing line with a probe might be more reasonable. Also I seem to recall that the the "water" properties themselves is also a further postulation, in that it could quite possibly be more of a thick slush underneath to which a "swimming" pro

  • ... have to tractor-beam the moon to Antarctica.

  • NASA Tests a Drone To Explore Jupiter's Moon in Antarctica

    ... getting Jupiter's moon to Antarctica.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I'm not part of the Georgia Tech team, but before events conspired and time ran out they were scheduled to deploy through our drill hole through the 300m thick Ross Ice Shelf at 80 degrees south latitude. You can follow the drama on our instagram feed:

    https://www.instagram.com/the_ross_ice_shelf_programme/ [instagram.com]

    I'd suggest to scroll back to mid November and start reading forward from there.

  • by fredrated ( 639554 ) on Sunday January 07, 2018 @03:38PM (#55881517) Journal

    How long has it been there?

  • by BlueCoder ( 223005 ) on Sunday January 07, 2018 @04:40PM (#55881753)

    Such a nuclear battery isn't all that dangerous if it's contained. But we are talking about a foreign ocean. Eventually the thing is going to stop working, rust, and then deteriorate in that ocean. If there is life that will be a tragic thing even if it is a low grade nuclear product. There are protests on this planet on sending NASA devices up with those batteries for the off chance that it explodes and effectively becomes a dirty bomb.

  • All these worlds are yours except Europa Use them together Use them in peace. Not so sure I'd go there ;) LOL

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