Exobiological Life Existing Surveyor (EELS) aims to explore uncharted terrains for evidence of extraterrestrial life.
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory is developing a snake-like robot, the Exobiological Life Existing Surveyor (EELS), to traverse diverse terrains and uncover evidence of life beyond Earth. But what exactly is NASA’s robotic snake, aka EELS?
In essence, EELS serves as a versatile instrument platform designed to investigate internal terrain structures, evaluate habitability, and ultimately seek signs of life. Its adaptability allows it to navigate ocean-world-inspired landscapes, fluidized environments, enclosed labyrinth-like settings, and liquids, making it a novel robotic explorer capable of detecting life in areas unreachable by current robotic technologies.
NASA’s Robot Snake EELS: A Slithering Space Explorer
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory is developing EELS, a robot snake designed to navigate various terrains and search for signs of life. R. Hiro Ono, the principal investigator at JPL, envisions EELS exploring holes, caves, and cracks throughout the solar system, reaching areas that previous robots couldn’t access, such as the ventilation systems on Saturn’s icy moon, Enceladus.
Nature-Inspired Design for Versatility
Dr. Mathew Robinson, the project manager, explains that EELS’ design is inspired by a snake’s ability to move through difficult terrain. This versatile platform could be used by future Artemis mission astronauts to investigate hazardous locations, such as lunar lava tubes and craters, that may be unsafe for human exploration.
Testing EELS on Earth
The snake-like robot has undergone testing inside Canada’s Athabasca Glacier and Mount Meager volcano. These expeditions were made possible through the Trebek Initiative, a partnership between the Royal Canadian Geographical Society and National Geographic.