Exploring Oceans Across The Solar System
An interesting observation, and challenge, to our usual ideas about exploring other worlds:
The solar system is awash with oceans. Unlike the majority of Earth’s seas, these ubiquitous brines are locked away beneath ice crusts. But they’re there, lurking under the surfaces of Ganymede, Europa, Enceladus, and perhaps other worlds like Titan, Dione, and Pluto. These maritime sites may provide the best venues for life beyond Earth, but getting to them is the tricky part. In the case of Jupiter’s ice moon Europa, its 60-mile-deep (100 kilometers) ocean ebbs and flows beneath miles of solid ice, which blocks direct access...
Recently, Stone led a team atop Alaska’s Matanuska Glacier. There, engineers tested a cryobot (a robot that can penetrate ice) called the Very deep Autonomous Laser-powered Kilowatt-class Yo-yoing Robotic Ice Explorer (VALKYRIE). VALKYRIE is one of many submersible robotic explorers that engineers are studying, hoping one day to investigate the oceans of other worlds.
There are few frontiers unexplored in the imagination of science fiction writers; sf author Michael Swanwick described the Mitsubish robot turbot robofish in his 2002 story Slow Life, about the exploration of Titan:
Black liquid flashed past the turbot’s infrared eyes. Straight away from the shore it swam, seeing nothing but flecks of paraffin, ice, and other suspended particulates as they loomed up before it and were swept away in the violence of its wake. A hundred meters out, it bounced a pulse of radar off the sea floor, then dove, seeking the depths...
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