A team of NASA researchers has proposed deploying a robotic system with an aim to explore the exotic environment of the subsurface oceans of Saturn’s icy moons that may potentially harbour life.
Several concepts have already been examined to explore the subsurface oceans of Europa and Enceladus using autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs). However, access to subsurface ocean continues to be a challenge, researchers said.
The proposed concept is to deploy a surface-to-subsurface robotic system, namely Icy-moon Cryovolcano Explorer (ICE).
ICE involves three modules: Descent Module (DM), Surface Module (SM), and AUVs. AUVs are launched once the DM reaches the subsurface ocean to explore the exotic climate that can potentially harbor life.
ICE can bring benefits such as it enables in situ science in a cryovolcano vent thought orbiters can perform in-situ science of plumes that are relatively large dust grains which are hard to teach orbital altitude.
The next comes the ICE which enables the exploration by providing an access to it at the subsurface oceans. The third one is, it enables the operation of AUV`s in subsurface ocean providing the essential services communication, localization, and power.
The water block radio waves, communication, and localization are significant challenges for AUV`s.
“We will develop mission concepts for ICE, identify the primary risks associated with the mission, identify potential mitigations for these risks, and perform a feasibility analysis for the mission,” the researchers said.