Home / Science / NASA proposes a nuclear-powered "tunnel bot" to search for life under the European ice

NASA proposes a nuclear-powered "tunnel bot" to search for life under the European ice

Europe is the most likely place to host foreign life. Below its surface is a salty ocean, which is heated by the gravity play on the metal core of the moon. But how do you see through the ice?

They are melting down the path with an atomic-powered robot.

At least this is the proposal this week was presented to the American Geophysical Union meeting in Washington DC.

Nasas The multidisciplinary COMPASS team at the Glenn Research Center was founded to develop technologies to meet the challenges of space exploration.

Europe presents a great challenge.

The ice of this Jupiter's moon can be between 2 and 30 km thick. [1

9659002] But downstairs could be life.

When we find it, our understanding of how ordinary life in our universe is, how resilient it is, and how it arises is revealed.

Nuclear tunnelbot

Planet scientists are not Not even Europe has an ocean. But all signs point to that. The most enticing of these are the swaths of liquid water that periodically erupt from their surface.

The COMPASS team has completed a concept study on the technologies that can penetrate the ice with a series of sensors and send the collected data back to Earth.

The best option is a nuclear-powered tunnel engine.

Nuclear power plants bring the most energy together in a small space.

And it does not even need to be installed a nuclear reactor – although this was one of the concept designs. In their simplest form, radioactive "stones" simply emit a heat source in front of a tubular probe, which then gradually sinks as the underlying ice turns into mud.

The Performance of Such Nuclear Fuel Cells Has Been Extensively Demonstrated Voyager 1 and 2 send signals as they cross 40 years after their launch into interstellar space.

Ice Piercer

The nuclear "tunnelbot" would detach itself from a landing craft with a fiberglass string – the & # 39; repeater & # 39; the data that spreads when sinking.

Such a European Tunnelbot would be relatively large. And risky to start.

"We were not worried about how our Tunnelbot will come to Europe or hit the ice," said Andrew Dombard, Associate Professor, University of Illinois. "We just assumed it could get there and focused on how it would work during the descent to the sea."

  A depiction of Europe showing the low ice seas and geysers that regularly erupt from their surface. Photo / NASA
A reproduction of Europe showing the low ice and the geysers erupting regularly from its surface. Photo / NASA

Which is the purpose of their mission. The next step is whether or not to build and deploy such a nuclear "tunnel bot". The decision, however, is based on a well-founded study of what is needed to get a look under the European ice.

Sending an investigation to Europe is one of Nasa's key goals for decades to come. However, it is not easy to bring the mission past an increasingly skeptical US Congress.

On Thin Ice

The main representative of the project was the Republican Republican John Culberson, who chaired the Nasa Subcommittee. The NASA study that produced the nuclear-powered "tunnel bot" is a result of his efforts.

However, he lost his seat in the last interim elections.

And the recent budget of President Donald Trump does not want to be funded by a Europa Lander.

Some experts express the fear that such an attempt would be a "bridge too far": we just do not know enough about the icy moon.

  The image of NASA shows a close-up of the icy surface of Jupiter's moon Europa. Photo / Nasa
The image of the Nasa shows a close-up of the icy surface of the Jupiter's moon Europe. Photo / Nasa

"It's a mission that emerged from the congress, as opposed to a mission that came from science," says Emily Lakdawalla of The Planetary Society.

Others argue that the long preparation time for such ambitious missions is loud, now is the time to work on the project.

And we'll learn more about the mysterious moon anyway.

The Europa Clipper mission – a spacecraft intended to orbit the Moon – has received first funding. Its goal is to circle for up to thirty kilometers to map the icy surface of Europe and to investigate what is possible with regard to the flushing out of chemicals in the smoke.

It is hoped that the Clipper will hit the market in 2022. It takes six years for the probe to reach Jupiter and orbit around Europe.

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