SCIENTISTS PROPOSED a Nuclear ''Tunnelbot'' to Hunt Life in Europa's Hidden Ocean.

A group of scientists wants to send a nuclear-powered ''tunnelbot'' to Europa to blast a path through the Jovian moon's thick shell of ice and search for life.

Europe, the fourth largest of Jupiter's 53 moon's is one of the best candidates in our solar system for hosting alien life.

Researchers believe that the icy crust hides a a  liquid water  ocean and that vents through that crust might deliver the necessary heat and chemical ingredients for life into that ocean.

To peck beneath that thick veil of ice, researchers on the NASA Glen Research COMPASS team [a group of scientists and engineers scattered around the country and tasked with solving problems for NASA] think they have come up with the tunnelbot.

On Friday [Dec.14] at the 2018 meeting of the  American Geophysical Union, the researchers presented a proposal for ''tunnelbot'' that would use nuclear power to melt a path through Europa's shell, carrying a payload that can search for  evidence  for extant/extinct life.''

Once it reaches the liquid ocean, to keep from ''falling through,''  it would deploy cables or floatation devices to lock itself in place, the researchers wrote.

At this stage, this is just  a rough theoretical proposal. 

The researchers haven't actually designed the payload for  sampling Europa's water and ice, or figured out how to get the tunnelbot onto the moon.

As Live Science has previously reported, that's the task pieces some significant mysteries and challenges [like possible giant, robot-destroying spikes].

Still, the proposal provides a fascinating window into what a future robotic mission to Europa might look like, and how we eventually might begin to explore whether the distant moon harbors life.


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