This nuclear-powered tunneling robot could one day find life on Europa. Here’s how it works.
At the American Geophysical Union’s conference in December 2018, scientists gathered from around the world to present their concepts for future space missions.There were dragonfly inspired drones for Titan, probes designed to take the temperature of Io’s volcanoes, but perhaps the coolest of them all: a tunneling worm robot designed to bore through Europa’s icy shell.
The bot was designed by NASA’s COMPASS team, a group of engineers tasked with ideating system designs for space exploration missions. And Jupiter’s icy moon, Europa, is a prime target because there might be life there.
For years, scientists have suspected Europa has an iron core, a rocky mantle, and a global ocean of liquid water. And, in 2013, the Hubble Space Telescope observed possible evidence of plumes of water on Europa’s surface, suggesting it’s geologically active. Scientists even think there could be hydrothermal vents on it’s seafloor supporting all kinds of alien life.