The robo-squid with a laser weapon that could blast its way through ice to find alien life in Europa's underground oceans / Cryobot is designed to tunnel down through thick ice caps / Uses a high powered laser to melt its way through thick ice / Liquid ocean on Europa could be 62 miles (100 kilometers) deep.

A robot sub that could one day scour Europa for alien life has begun tests in alaska. The robotic 'cryobot' is designed to tunnel down through thick ice caps and penetrate subterranean seas, is undergoing tests on the Matanuska glacier in Alaska. It uses a laser to blast its way through ice.

NASA's budget for the 2016 fiscal year includes $30 million for further development of the Europa Clipper concept, a mission to Europa that will seek possible signs of the icy moon's habitability.

The robotic 'cryobot' is designed to tunnel down through thick ice caps and penetrate subterranean seas, and is undergoing tests on the Matanuska glacier in Alaska.

How it works

Named VALKYRIE (Very deep Autonomous Laser-powered Kilowatt-class Yo-yoing Robotic Ice Explorer) and funded by NASA’s Astrobiology Science and Technology for Exploring Planets (ASTEP) program, it uses lasers and fiber optics to cleanly melt its way through the ice. The laser energy heats water with which to melt the ice in front of it, while the water re-freezes behind it around the fiber, allowing communications and power flow to be maintained.

But, to find life, a mission will ultimately have to land on the surface and go under the ice to the ocean below.

'Assuming Europa is found to be potentially habitable, the next mission that follows may be able to land and perhaps try to get beneath the ice,' says Louise Prockter, a planetary scientist at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory and Pre-Project Deputy Scientist for the Clipper mission.

The challenge of getting underneath the ice on Europa is a daunting one, she said.

First, any cryobot would have to tunnel down through 20 to 30 kilometers (12.4 to 18.6 miles) of ice. Even the thinner areas might still be several kilometers thick.

Bill Stone of Stone Aerospace thinks he has the answer.

He is preparing to head back out to the Matanuska glacier this summer with his team of explorers and scientists to continue testing the most advanced cryobot in the world.

Named VALKYRIE (Very deep Autonomous Laser-powered Kilowatt-class Yo-yoing Robotic Ice Explorer) and funded by NASA’s Astrobiology Science and Technology for Exploring Planets (ASTEP) program, it uses lasers and fiber optics to cleanly melt its way through the ice.

The laser energy heats water with which to melt the ice in front of it, while the water re-freezes behind it around the fiber, allowing communications and power flow to be maintained.

In 2014 VALKYRIE descended to a depth of 31 meters into the Matanuska glacier - and will go further this time.

The VALKYRIE cryobot is positioned to begin ice-penetration tests on the Matanuska glacier in Alaska.

One of the holes left behind as the robot descended in Alaska

Several other projects aim to do the same thing, and even Nasa has unveiled a 'robosquid' it hopes could find alien life.

The 'soft robot' is being developed to explore underground oceans of planets like Europa.

This rover would resemble an squid with a short antenna on its back that harvests power from locally changing magnetic fields.

It is one of 15 proposals for study under Phase I of the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC), a program that aims to turn science fiction into science fact through the development of pioneering technologies.

'The latest selections include a number of exciting concepts,' said Steve Jurczyk, associate administrator for the Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

The Stone Aerospace team with Valkyrie (the black tube hanging on the apparatus in the middle of the picture) on the Matanuska glacier. It will use lasers to melt its way through ice.

One of the selected proposals calls for the use of a soft-robotic rover for missions that can't be accomplished with conventional power systems.

This rover would resemble an eel with a short antenna on its back that harvests power from locally changing magnetic fields.

The goal is to enable amphibious exploration of gas-giant moons like Europa.

The robotic 'cryobot' is designed to tunnel down through thick ice caps and penetrate subterranean seas, and is undergoing tests on the Matanuska glacier in Alaska.

This rover would resemble an eel with a short antenna on its back that harvests power from locally changing magnetic fields, and could soon scour Europa looking for life.

How it would work

This rover would resemble an eel with a short antenna on its back that harvests power from locally changing magnetic fields.

The electrical energy scavenged from the environment powers all rover subsystems, including one that electrolyzes H20.

Electrolysis produces a mixture of H2 and O2 gas, which is stored internally in the body and limbs of this rover.

Igniting this gas expands these internal chambers, causing shape change to propel the rover through fluid or perhaps along the surface of a planetary body.

'We propose a rover architecture for Europa and other planetary environments where soft robotics enables scientific investigation or human-precursor missions that cannot be accomplished with solar or nuclear power,' said Mason Peck, who developed the concept at Cornell.

'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.

'This work will assess the possibility that any life on Europa may be powered by electromagnetic energy, with singular implications for astrobiology.'

Roughly the size of Earth's moon, Europa is structurally like a liquor-filled chocolate, with a liquid ocean that could be 62 miles (100 kilometers) deep.

Another proposal will look at using two glider-like unmanned aerial vehicles connected by an ultra-strong cable at different altitudes that sail without propulsion.

The vehicle would use wind shear in the lower stratosphere (approximately 60,000 ft.), similar to a kite surfer, where the upper aircraft provides lift and aerodynamic thrust, and the lower aircraft provides an upwind force to keep it from drifting downwind.

Roughly the size of Earth's moon, Europa is structurally like a liquor-filled chocolate, with a liquid ocean that could be 62 miles (100 kilometers) deep. Scientists have long thought that that sea is one of the best potential alien incubators in our solar system.

If successful, this atmospheric satellite could remain in the stratosphere for years, enabling NASA's Earth science missions, monitoring capabilities or aircraft navigation at a fraction of the cost of orbital satellite networks.

Employing a novel mobility concept, the Cryogenic Reservoir Inventory by Cost-Effective Kinetically Enhanced Technology (CRICKET) proposal explores volatiles, such as hydrogen, nitrogen and water, stored in permanently shadowed regions on planetary bodies.

Inexpensive robotic crawlers, hoppers and soccer-ball style buckey-bots would explore the surface of these dark regions for water and other compounds.

Multiple bots could be used to develop a high-resolution map to aid in potentially using these resources.

The projects are chosen through a peer-review process that evaluates their potential, technical approach and benefits that can be realized in a reasonable timeframe.

All concepts are very early in the development cycle and represent multiple technology areas, including aircraft propulsion, human life support, science instruments, unique robotic concepts and exploring other diverse technology paths needed to meet NASA's strategic goals.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-3120846/The-robo-squid-laser-weapon-blast-way-icy-oceans-alien-life.html

14.06.2015 | 66587 Aufrufe

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