Robots are being developed all the time to do what we wish and to go where we can’t. This week, inventor Bill Stone told attendees at NASA’s Astrobiology Science Conference in Atlanta that he intends to get an autonomous robot ready to visit the icebound sea of Jupiter’s moon Europa, cut through the icy crust, and explore the waters below. He told the participants that his goal is to send his robot Valkyrie to Europa, where it will use lasers to cut through the ice to explore the waters below, collecting samples, in search of life. His company, Stone Aerospace, has been working on the six-foot by ten inch robotic cylinder called Valkyrie.
The plan is for it to leave its power plant on the surface of the moon, with a high-powered laser travelling down miles of fibre-optic cable. “Our modest goal over the next three years is to use a 5,000-watt laser to send a cryobot through up to 250 meters of ice,” Stone said at the Atlanta assembly. If successful, Stone’s concept would resolve obstacles in the way of studying what may lie beneath Europa’s ice. A report in Wired says those obstacles include (1) solar power being unable to work below the surface (2) batteries not lasting long enough (3) too large a footprint of a device and (4) international treaty restrictions that would forbid testing of a nuclear robot.
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