NASA has released new footage of the underwater drone that could someday explore the oceans of Europa, a moon off Jupiter. The moon has nearly three times as much water as Earth, though it's contained beneath an icy surface, making it especially difficult to view from Earth. Luckily, NASA's got us covered.
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laborartory posted a new video of the drone, known as Buoyant Rover for Under Ice Exploration, online Thursday. It's just a prototype of the drone that NASA hopes to ultimately send to Europa in the 2020s, but NASA has already proved the BRUIE can attach to the underside of the ice and record images and data about its movements underwater.
“Our research up in the Arctic has this win-win,” astrobiologist Kevin Hand said in the video. “By studying the methane that's trapped in these lakes and coming out of the permafrost, we're helping to quantify the greenhouse gas emissions that are affecting climate change, while simultaneously building a vehicle and a scientific platform that serves as a precursor for something that may some day fly to Europa or Enceladus or one of the other moons that harbors an ocean.”
Europa has long been a subject of fascination for NASA and others who have suggested it's the Milky Way's best hope for finding extraterrestrial life. It's one of the four largest moons hovering near Jupiter, and is inundated with radiaation from the giant gas planet. The White House included a trip to Europa in its proposed 2016 budget, and a mission is in the formulation stage.
"A lot of what we do in deep space is applicable to the ocean,"said Andy Klesh, principal investigator for the rover, in a NASA statement. "This is an early prototype for vehicles that could one day go to Europa and other planetary bodies with a liquid ocean covered by ice. It's ideal for traveling under the ice shelf of an icy world."