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Probe to search for life on Europa, Jupiter’s moon, experiencing Antarctica

Зонд для поиска жизни на Европе, спутнике Юпитера, испытывают в Антарктике

That on Europa, Jupiter’s moon, life can be, say for a long time. In fact, they say the same thing about Enceladus and several other moons of the planets of the Solar system (even the Charon!). But Europe is facing the eyes of scientists, and among all the plans of visiting potentially habitable worlds most theories about the possibility of a flight to the moons of Jupiter.

Now this project is getting more real experts from the Technological University of Georgia have even developed a special underwater robot. This device is able to dive under the ice and start learning just what is around. Perhaps, once such a robot will be able to prove that on the planetoids of the Solar system life exists.

The prototype device is now being tested in the working conditions in Antarctica. The conditions here are most similar to “European”. Within three months, Britney Schmidt from the University of Georgia along with his team tested the robot, which is called Icefin. The main purpose of the underwater drone search for subglacial life.

Icefin can penetrate through a small hole in the ice, perhaps it is these are formed in the icy crust of Europe. At the same time, we use the robot and in order to better understand what is happening under the ice in Antarctica and how these processes can affect bissoondath,” says Schmidt.

Зонд для поиска жизни на Европе, спутнике Юпитера, испытывают в Антарктике

Most drone like a torpedo, as, indeed, many other underwater robots. Length of the device is 3 meters. To develop a robot began in 2014, when it was reported that the torpedo-like robot is a project of NASA and the robot will be used to test the viability of the technology. Now this program is called the Ross Ice Shelf and the Europa Underwater Probe (RISE UP). NASA is funding three expeditions to the Antarctic for testing Icefin under conditions of extremely low temperature.

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The robot added new sensors for monitoring organic matter and measurements, the results of which may indicate the presence of life. In particular, it is the levels of acidity and the concentration of dissolved oxygen in the water. It is impossible to know for sure, but there is an assumption that life on other planets also modifies the specified parameters, so that the conducting underwater tests water may indirectly indicate the presence of living beings.

“We saw that Icefin swim very well, uses all the provided scientific instruments, so he was able to obtain data from three different locations. The robot acted on the shelf and relatively great depths (530 and 800 meters). He also learned the language of the Erebus glacier”, — said the participants of the project.

The new drone is much “smarter” than the first prototype. He is able to work in conditions of autonomy that is required in Europe. The robot should work at a distance of about 800 million kilometers from Earth and be able to operate in fully automatic mode. Scientists are at risk of loss of the device, but in a different way to do the impossible, because you can control the robot under the ice with huge distances is impossible.

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One of the tasks set by scientists conducting tests in Antarctica — check the accuracy of the robot. The experts reviewed all test results provided Icefin. After all, it would not be too pleased to find that the device, which cost many millions of dollars (or even billions), and sent to Europe, successfully works there, but sends incorrect measurement results.

It is not excluded and emergency. “The most frightening moment for us was a system error, which disconnected the main computer of the robot. Everything was solved almost immediately — the computer involved, but if this happened in Europe, things could be much worse,” says Schmidt. Scientists need to study all the weaknesses of the system in order to be able to create a reliable robot that will be able to work independently.

Зонд для поиска жизни на Европе, спутнике Юпитера, испытывают в Антарктике

During the nine subsequent months, the researchers will add to the functionality of the robot some more tools, it may be even a microscope. The next phase of the research, which will begin in October, will directly relate to the autonomy of the Icefin, as mentioned above. The third test program, the final will aim to test the ability of the robot to “decide”. That is to choose places to explore, journey and the like.

In Antarctica, the robot is able to find a lot of interesting life forms. Clearly, all of them are known to scientists, but to observe them is of no less interesting. In General it looked like a real dive under the ice of another planet.

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