Currently undergoing testing, this NASA prototype rover drives on the underside of the ice as it explores the ocean.
Designed to float beneath the ice, the prototype rover uses a pair of large grooved wheels to “drive” itself across the underside of an ice sheet, as if the ice were the ground itself. NASA says that this is the first time that an underwater, under-ice, and untethered vehicle has been operated completely through a satellite linkup.
Dubbed the BRUIE (Buoyant Rover for Under-Ice Exploration), it is currently being tested in Alaska to determine if the technology itself can work. As the probe “drives” itself across the ocean ice, it studies the water around it, recording information such as temperature and salt content.If the probe lives up to its concept, we may see it included in future NASA missions that aim to explore our solar system. While planets such as Mars are arid wastelands, Saturn’s moon Titan features a number of hydrocarbon oceans, and Jupiter’s moon Eurpoa is believed to have extensive subsurface oceans. By exploring these moons, we will learn more about the formation and make-up of our solar system, and have the possibility of discovering new life forms as well.
While a device like this probe won’t be sent to another planet in the near future, NASA is hoping to get to Euopa by 2025 at the latest. This past year, $15 million were allocated in the 2015 Federal Budget to begin the planning of a mission to the icy moon, which builds upon the $155 million allocated to NASA from 2013-2014.
If you want to learn more about the probe itself, and see it in action, take a look at the video shot by National Geographic above. It truly is a remarkable little piece of equipment.