Washington, Feb 10 : Researchers are preparing to test a NASA-funded robotic probe under ice in Lake Mendota on the campus of the University of Wisconsin, Madison, to demonstrate whether the probe's systems can operate in a similar environment on Jupiter's moon Europa.
Known as the "Environmentally Non-Disturbing Under-ice Robotic Antarctic Explorer", the probe is a 2.3 million dollars project funded by NASA's Astrobiology Science and Technology for Exploring Planets Program.
The probe is an autonomous underwater vehicle designed to swim untethered under ice, creating three-dimensional maps of underwater environments.
The probe also will collect data on conditions in those environments and take samples of microbial life.
Researchers then plan to ship the probe to a permanently frozen lake in Antarctica for operations later this year.
The technology is being developed and tested by the science teams for a possible underwater exploration mission on Europa far in the future.
The probe is a follow-up to the Deep Phreatic Thermal Explorer, a NASA-funded project that completed a series of underwater field tests in Mexico in 2007.
The testing of the robotic probe will take place on Feb. 12-15 in Lake Mendota.