A Nuclear-Powered ‘Tunnelbot’ From NASA Could Search for Aliens on Jupiter’s Moon Europa

Scientists say that there could be alien life in the vast underground oceans on Jupiter's Moon Europa.

NASA scientists are developing a cunning plan to search for alien life on one of Jupiter’s Moons.

Theories that there could be alien life inside our very own solar system have been around for years.

Among the best candidates to host potential alien organisms are Mars, where NASA’s InSight Lander will soon dig into the red planet and see what’s beneath the surface, and Europa, one of Jupiter’s Icy Moons.

Experts believe that Europa could be the home of microbial life, beneath its surface where massive liquid oceans exist.

The 'tunnelbot' would land on the surface of Europa, and then make its ways to the oceans beneath, while searching for alien life. Image Credit: Alexander Pawlusik, LERCIP Internship Program NASA Glenn Research Center.
The ‘tunnelbot’ would land on the surface of Europa, and then make its ways to the oceans beneath, while searching for alien life. Image Credit: Alexander Pawlusik, LERCIP Internship Program NASA Glenn Research Center.

To test out their theory, they need to get to Europa. But, how do we explore the inner oceans of the moon? And how do we drill into the thick icy sheets of Jupiter’s Satellite?

Scientists estimate that the ice shell covering Europa’s surface is nearly 19 miles thick.

“Estimates of the thickness of the ice shell range between 2 and 30 kilometers (1.2 and 18.6 miles), and is a major barrier any lander will have to overcome in order to access areas we think have a chance of holding biosignatures representative of life on Europa,” explained Andrew Dombard, associate professor of earth and environmental sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

According to NASA scientists, the answer is a nuclear-powered tunnelbot which could land on Europa’s surface,m and drill through its thick ice shell in search for alien life.

Experts from NASA’s Glenn Research COMPASS team have already developed a concept study that demonstrates how their nuclear-powered tunnelbot could melt through the thick ice shell on Europa.

Dombard and his colleagues have presented their plan at the American Geophysical Union meeting in Washington, D.C.

Dombard and his wife D’Arcy Meyer-Dombard, an associate professor of Earth and environmental sciences at UIC, are both part of NASA’s top science teams at NASA’s Glenn Research Center.

The team has now developed a cunning plan that could allow us to explore the depths of Europa. The spacecraft would travel to Europa, touch down on its icy surface, and then make its way through the ice shelf while carrying on board a number of instruments that can be used to search for signs of life or even extinct life. The tunnelbot would also have the ability to study the ice shelf and evaluate the habitability of the ice shelf itself.

“We didn’t worry about how our tunnelbot would make it to Europa or get deployed into the ice,” Dombard explained in the paper.

“We just assumed it could get there and we focused on how it would work during descent to the ocean.”

Via
Phys.org
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