NASA-funded robot to test exploration capabilities for future mission to Europa

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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.

ANI

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