NASA probes under ice

A NASA-funded robotic probe is to be tested under ice to evaluate the systems ability to operate in the kind of extreme conditions found on Jupiter’s moon Europa.

The Environmentally Non-Disturbing Under-ice Robotic Antarctic Explorer is a $2.3m project aimed at creating a vehicle designed to swim untethered under ice. The probe is designed to record conditions, take samples of microbial life and create 3D maps of the environment.

Initial testing will be performed in February at Lake Mendota, on the campus of the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Researchers then plan to take the probe to a permanently frozen lake in Antarctica for further testing.

The work is being done with a view to a possible underwater exploration mission on Europa far in the future. The probe is a follow-up to the Deep Phreatic Explorer, another NASA-funded project, which completed underwater field tests in Mexico in 2007.