NASA is Testing an Underwater Rover in the Arctic

By James O Malley on at

Moons like Europa, which orbits Jupiter, and Enceladus, which orbits Saturn offer some of the most interesting possibilities for other life in the universe thanks to both having huge oceans. There's just one problem though: Unlike Earth's oceans, these are beneath the surface.

And this presents a problem: Assuming that we can get a rover to the distant moons (hey, that's the easy part), how can we survey another planet's oceans. This is where the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory's latest invention comes in hand.

Motherboard reports that the Buoyant Rover for Under-Ice Exploration (BRUIE) is designed for just this purpose.

Essentially, a receiver is left floating on the water's surface, for transmitting data between Earth/satellites and the undersea rover, which itself is detached and goes underwater. Cleverly, to move along the team realised that because the moons are both icy, they can use the ice as a road. By controlling the craft's buoyancy, it can float just under the surface, pushing itself along the ice with the wheels on either side.

As you can see above, an early design for such a craft is currently being tested in methane rich waters in Alaska - which apparently has the added boon of also helping collect data about the state of the ocean here on Earth. Apparently the results could help us better understand the effects of climate change.

At the moment is appears that there are no currently planned missions to launch a craft like BRUIE - but don't be surprised if when we get finally get around to it, we end up searching extra-terrestrial oceans with a rover not unlike this one. [Motherboard]