Exploring a distant moon usually means riding around its uniquely inhospitable surface, but on icy ocean moons such as Enceladus of Saturn, it would be better to approach things from the bottom up. This rover, which will soon be tested in Antarctica, can one day ride along the bottom of the ice crust a few miles thick in the ocean of a strange world.
It is believed that these oceanic satellites may be most likely to detect signs of life in the past or present. But investigating them is not an easy task.
Little is known about these moons, and the missions we have planned are very geared towards exploring the surface without revealing their deepest secrets. But if we ever find out what is happening under the ice (water or others), we need something that can survive and move down there.
The Buoyant Rover for under-ice research, or BRUIE, is a robotic research platform being developed at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena. It looks like an industrial strength hoverboard (remember those?), And, as you can guess from its name, it moves upside down on the ice, making itself buoyant enough to provide traction.
“We found that life often lives on the borders, both on the seabed and on the border between ice and water above. Most submarines have difficulty exploring this area, as ocean currents can cause them to fall, or they will spend too much energy in maintaining their position, ”explained BRUIE lead engineer Andy Klesh on his blog on JPL.
However, unlike ordinary submarines, it will be able to stay in one place and even temporarily turn off, maintaining its position, waking up only for measurements. This can significantly increase its life.
Although the San Fernando Valley is a great analogue for many dusty, sun-burned extraterrestrial environments, it actually does not look like an icy ocean for testing. Therefore, the team went to Antarctica.
The project has been under development since 2012 and has been tested in Alaska (pictured above) and in the Arctic. But Antarctica is the perfect place to test advanced deployment – ultimately up to several months at a time. Try this where sea ice retreats within a few miles of the pole.
Testing potential scientific rover tools is also necessary because in a situation where we are looking for signs of life, accuracy and accuracy are of utmost importance.
JPL technology will be supported by the Australian Antarctic Program, which serves the Casey station with which the mission will be based.