NASA Wants to Send a Robot Laser Drill to Jupiter's Europa Moon

NASA Wants to Send a Robot Laser Drill to Jupiter's Europa Moon

Getting to Europa is the easy part. Drilling through the moon's icy shell? Not so much.

NASA has plenty of exploration work on its plate. With roughly $4 billion of its $17 billion-plus estimated 2015 budget earmarked for space exploration, trips to Mars are always on the brain, as is a return trip to the Moon. But what about exploration beyond the Asteroid Belt?

Jupiter, or more specifically its moon Europa, appears to be one of the next stops for a man-made probe. While a timeline has not yet officially been locked down, a team at NASA is already hard at work designing the necessary hardware. Getting to Europa will be a challenge in and of itself, but what happens when the probe lands? Thick ice dominates the planet's surface, under which lies great bodies of water, the most necessary of life's building blocks.

To get through the ice, the NASA team is developing a laser-based drill that could cut through the icy roof, exposing the water below. Then, the accompanying probe and instruments could explore for life, and other valuable data.

The drill's prototype, seen in the video above, is currently being tested on the Matanuska glacier in Alaska.

If NASA decides to follow through on its Europa plans, exploration could start as early as 2022, with an initial explorer probe launch. $15 million of the 2015 NASA budget has been set aside specifically for the exploration of, well, Europa exploration!

Source: The Verge

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Scientists use a laser drill to dig deep unto the ice on a distant moon, uncovering the untold horrors below?
I think I've seen that movie...

Europa report? ya well Europa is one of the most likely places where life might be in our solar system.

I love that we live in a time where we can say, "robot laser drill" and not be referring to to fiction.

All these worlds are yours except Europa. Attempt no landing there.

I have this vision of the live TV event of the breakthrough. At which point Europa shoots off like a deflating balloon.

Always reminds me of 2010:

ALL THESE WORLDS
ARE YOURS EXCEPT
EUROPA
ATTEMPT NO
LANDING THERE

Have they actually discovered there's water under the ice? I thought it was just a possibility, no actual confirmation.

Would be kind of a letdown for the probe to just drill into a load of ice and just hitting rock.

I always thought the Drill was the plan. Like, they just needed the money to build the thing. Well, nice to see that it wasn't a pipe dream.

Genocidicles:
Have they actually discovered there's water under the ice? I thought it was just a possibility, no actual confirmation.

Would be kind of a letdown for the probe to just drill into a load of ice and just hitting rock.

The only way to know for certain is to go there and drill.

OT: Something that comes to mind, if this is true then how would putting a hole in the protective ice layer effect any life they find underneath? Could it potentially let radiation that was previously reflected by the ice in and kill the ecosystem? I hope they take things like that into consideration.

Mahorfeus:
All these worlds are yours except Europa. Attempt no landing there.

What is funny is that in the Next book in the series 2061 they did just that to horrifying results.

OT: Something I don't see in the article is if the probe is capable of going all the way to the bottom of the ocean of Europa without being crushed by the pressure.

 

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