Exploring the distant moon usually means revolving around its extremely inhospitable surface, but on the icy moons of oceans such as Saturn's Enceladus, it's better to come to the point from up to down. This rover, which will soon be tested in Antarctica, may one day roll over the bottom of an ice crust many miles thick in the ocean of a strange world.
It is believed that these ocean moons may be most likely to find traces of past or present life. But discovering them is not an easy task.
Little is known about these moons, and the missions planned by us have a very large impact on the study of the surface, but not penetrating into their deepest secrets. But if we ever know what's going on under miles of ice (water or other), we need something that will survive and move there.
Buoyant Rover for Under-Ice Exploration or BRUIE is a robotic exploration platform being developed at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena. It looks a bit like an industrial strength hoverboard (remember those?), And as you can guess from its name, it circulates the ice upside down, ensuring enough buoyancy to ensure traction.
"We have found that life often lives on interfaces, both at the bottom of the sea and on the border of icy water upstairs. Most submarines have a hard time exploring this area because ocean currents can cause them to fail or they would waste too much power to maintain position, "explained BRUIE chief engineer Andy Klesh on the JPL blog.
However, unlike ordinary submarines, this one would be able to stay in one place and even temporarily turn off, maintaining its position, waking up only for measurements. This can significantly extend its operating time.
Although the San Fernando Valley is a great analogue for many dusty, sunburnt extraterrestrial environments, there really is no such thing as an ice-covered ocean to test. The team went to Antarctica.
The project has been in development since 2012 and has been tested in Alaska (pictured above) and in the Arctic. But Antarctica is the perfect place to test extended deployment – eventually for several months. Try it where the sea ice recedes a few miles from the pole.
Testing potential rover scientific instruments is also fine because in a situation where we are looking for signs of life, accuracy and precision are the most important.
JPL technologies will be supported by the Australian Antarctic Program, which maintains the Casey station on which the mission is based.