Meet the Aquatic Robot That Could Aid the Hunt for Alien Life on Europa
2400 ft beneath the Antarctic Ice, a robotic adventurer makes the astonishing discovery that deep within that dark and incredibly cold water, an ecosystem of fish and crustaceans was inexplicably thriving. The robot that made this recent discovery was Deep-SCINI (Submersible Capable of under Ice Navigation and Imaging), and it was so successful that some researchers believe it could one day help take the hunt for alien life to Jupiter's icy moon, Europa.
Created by a team from The University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Deep-SCINI was actually funded by NASA who are actively seeking out Antarctic technologies because of their potential applications for future Europa missions. It only took Deep-SCINI 45 minutes to weasel it's way down the 2400 ft hole in the Ross Ice shelf in Antarctica, after which it employed its cameras to record images of this most unlikely of underwater communities. Deep-SCINI is capable of sustaining operations at depths of up to 6,500ft, and it's this sort of resilience that NASA believes could be useful for their planned robotic mission to Europa.
Like Antarctica, Europa possesses a thick icy top layer, but it's what is underneath that scientists find so interesting. The agency has already secured $100m of Congressional funding for a Europa mission thanks, in part, to the increasing evidence suggesting that the Jovian moon plays host to an ocean of liquid water beneath its icy crust. Scientists believe that ocean could represent our best hope of finding alien life in our solar system, and findings such as those being made by Deep-SCINI only go to solidify that notion by showing how resilient life can be.