Robot plumbs Wisconsin lake on way to Antarctica, jovian moon

Feb 11, 2008

A University of Illinois at Chicago scientist will lead a team testing a robotic probe in a polar-style, under-ice exploration that may have out-of-this world applications. But the team will keep to a venue that's much closer to home.

Peter Doran, associate professor of earth and environmental sciences at UIC, will lead the team Feb. 11-15 working in the icy waters of Lake Mendota off the campus of the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

They'll conduct an under-ice test of a NASA-funded robotic probe called ENDURANCE -- an acronym for Environmentally Non-Disturbing Under-ice Robotic ANtarctic Explorer.

The wintry Wisconsin conditions are hoped to simulate and to demonstrate whether the probe's systems can operate in icy conditions as a first test of using such a vehicle in a similar environment on Jupiter's moon Europa.

ENDURANCE is is a $2.3 million project funded by NASA's Astrobiology Science and Technology for Exploring Planets Program. The probe is an 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 use sensors to characterize the biological environment.

"Basically the game plan this week is to test the vehicle's performance in a cold ice-covered environment," Doran said. "Up to now it's only been tested in relatively balmy environments like Texas and Mexico. We want to see what issues may come up by pushing it into the frigid water."

The next step by the research team is to ship the probe to Antarctica's permanently frozen Lake Bonney later this year. Bonney is a two-and-a-half mile long, mile-wide, 130 foot-deep lake located in the continent's McMurdo Dry Valleys. It lies perpetually trapped beneath 12 to 15 feet of ice.

ENDURANCE will map Bonney for a month, then do a second mapping in 2009. Data gathered will be relayed back to Chicago where it will be used by UIC's Electronic Visualization Laboratory to generate various 3-D images, maps and data renderings of the lake.

Science teams are developing and testing the technology 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 led by Stone Aerospace that completed a series of underwater field tests in Mexico in 2007.

Source: University of Illinois at Chicago

Explore further: NASA provides double vision on Typhoon Matmo

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Sun sends more 'tsunami waves' to Voyager 1

Jul 08, 2014

(Phys.org) —NASA's Voyager 1 spacecraft has experienced a new "tsunami wave" from the sun as it sails through interstellar space. Such waves are what led scientists to the conclusion, in the fall of 2013, ...

Cassini celebrates 10 years exploring Saturn

Jun 26, 2014

It has been a decade since a robotic traveler from Earth first soared over rings of ice and fired its engine to fall forever into the embrace of Saturn. On June 30, the Cassini mission will celebrate 10 years ...

Curiosity travels through ancient glaciers on Mars

Jun 25, 2014

3,500 million years ago the Martian crater Gale, through which the NASA rover Curiosity is currently traversing, was covered with glaciers, mainly over its central mound. Very cold liquid water also flowed ...

Rover under-ice prototype may lead to Europa search

Jun 25, 2014

(Phys.org) —Scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) have been working on a device that may one day explore the underside of ice on Europa, Jupiter's moon. NASA completed an early prototype ...

Cassini captures familiar forms on Titan's dunes

Apr 08, 2014

(Phys.org) —The moons of our Solar System are brimming with unusual landscapes. However, sometimes they look a little more familiar, as in this new radar image from the Cassini orbiter. The image shows ...

Recommended for you

Jeju Island is a live volcano, study reveals

11 hours ago

In Jeju, a place emerging as a world-famous vacation spot with natural tourism resources, a recent study revealed a volcanic eruption occurred on the island. The Korea Institute of Geoscience and Mineral ...

Has Antarctic sea ice expansion been overestimated?

11 hours ago

New research suggests that Antarctic sea ice may not be expanding as fast as previously thought. A team of scientists say much of the increase measured for Southern Hemisphere sea ice could be due to a processing ...

User comments : 0