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: Strong quake hits east Indonesia; no tsunami threat

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

The formation and development of desert dunes on Titan

Oct 23, 2014

Combining climate models and observations of the surface of Titan from the Cassini probe, a team from the AIM Astrophysics Laboratory (CNRS / CEA / Paris Diderot University) , in collaboration with researchers ...

Ten years of Cassini

Sep 09, 2014

Ten years ago, the Cassini-Huygens mission entered the Saturnian System and in January 2005, the Huygens probe landed softly on the surface of Saturn's largest moon, Titan. These historic events, which revolutionized ...

How Titan's haze help us understand life's origins

Aug 25, 2014

Where did life on Earth come from? There are several theories as to what might have happened. Maybe comets came bearing organic material, or life was transported from another planet such as Mars, or something ...

Titan offers clues to atmospheres of hazy planets

Jul 28, 2014

When hazy planets pass across the face of their star, a curious thing happens. Astronomers are not able to see any changes in the range of light coming from the star and planet system.

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, ...

Recommended for you

Strong quake hits east Indonesia; no tsunami threat

9 hours ago

A strong earthquake struck off the coast of eastern Indonesia on Sunday evening, but there were no immediate reports of injuries or damage, and authorities said there was no threat of a tsunami.

Scientists make strides in tsunami warning since 2004

Dec 19, 2014

The 2004 tsunami led to greater global cooperation and improved techniques for detecting waves that could reach faraway shores, even though scientists still cannot predict when an earthquake will strike.

Trade winds ventilate the tropical oceans

Dec 19, 2014

Long-term observations indicate that the oxygen minimum zones in the tropical oceans have expanded in recent decades. The reason is still unknown. Now scientists at the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.