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