Georgia Tech has a new robotic vehicle called Icefin, and it is designed to explore the depths of the ocean in icy regions. Previously Icefin was used to explore beneath the Ross Ice Shelf in Antarctica, and in the future it could have a mission that extends beyond Earth. The technology could be key to getting a look at the ocean that (likely) lies beneath the icy shell of Europa, one of Jupiter’s moons. NASA has been working on plans to explore the frozen moon.
Earlier this week NASA announced that its planned Europa mission — which is believed to offer a good shot at finding signs of (present) life — has moved on from being a mere concept into a developmental stage, and that it is currently in the Formulation Phase after passing its first review.
Europa is covered in ice, but it is believed there may be an ocean deep beneath that frozen crust. It isn’t clear what all NASA is planning for the eventual mission, which won’t be happening for a few more years, but among them could be Icefin, which managed to explore the depths of Antarctica through a small hole drilled in the ice.
The robotic vehicle, once deployed, uses different pieces of onboard technology to study the environment, including things that may be living on the seafloor. The vehicle, which is tethered, is able to go to depths as deep as about 4,900ft. Whether it will ultimately ever be sent into space to explore other worlds is not yet known, but it is one of multiple possibilities currently in the works.