Robot Subs To Search for Alien Life
Kyle Maxey posted on June 13, 2013 |

sub, robot, space, ESA, NASA, sweden, jupiter, europa, life, ETIf there’s life in the universe, it will likely be under water

To sustain life anywhere in the universe, scientists agree that one of the critical building blocks is H2O. Without this simple molecule the entire evolution of our planet may have never occurred.

It stands to reason that if we’re looking for life on other planets we should look in places that have water in abundance. Trouble is, most planets and moons in our solar system are bone dry. However, there are a few candidates that are home to liquid water. Most prominent among them is Jupiter’s icy moon, Europa.

Under the kilometers thick ice crust of Europa lies a vast ocean of liquid water. The European Space Agency (ESA) believes that sometime around 2030 they’ll be sending missions to the Jovian that may carry robotic submarines capable of exploring the icy deeps.

While no missions details have yet been released, that hasn’t stopped Jonas Jonsson, a researcher at Sweden’s Upsalla University’s Angstrom Space Technology Centre, from designing mini subs that might one day find themselves submersed in an alien sea.

Named Deeper Access, Deeper Understanding, or DADU for short, the Swedish submersible is just a tad larger than two soda cans stacked end to end. To maneuver and propel the sub, eight small thrusters are mounted on the rear of the craft.

Outside of DADU’s fairly simply arrangement of mechanical components lies a suite of sonar, laser, and temperature sensors that will help the craft collectinformation about Europa’s seas.  Additionally, the sub will be equipped with a high-res video camera allowing it to look deep into the moon’s dark ocean. While these stock, passive apparatus will likely deliver incredible data, the most intriguing instrument on the sub may be a proposed sampling and filtration device for collecting and studying micro-organisms that could be living on Europa.

To communicate all of this information back to scientists on Earth (or maybe even Mars by that time) the sub will be tethered to the surface via a fiber optic cable.

Between now and 2030 DADU’s designers have imagined a few real world tests that could help refine the subs mechanical and navigation systems. “"A mission to explore Lake Vostok in Antarctica… would of course be the 'Holy Grail' mission, and a real proof of concept for a future mission to explore… Europa” Said Jonsson.

Images Courtesy of Jonas Jonsson & the Angstrom Space Technology Centre of Uppsala University

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