NASA scientists has sent BRUIE, or the Buoyant Rover for Under-Ice Exploration, into Antarctica this month to drive upside down under sea ice. Why? It’s spending the next month testing its endurance at Australia’s Casey research station in Antarctica in preparation for a mission to Jupiter’s icy moon Europa in search for life beyond Earth. The Antarctic waters are the closest Earth representation of the seas of an icy moon, which makes them a great testing ground for BRUIE technology. Measuring three feet long and equipped with two wheels to roll along beneath the ice, the buoyant rover can take images and collect data on the important region where water and ice meet, or the “ice-water interface.” Read more for a video and additional information.
Scientists like Kevin Hand, JPL lead scientist on the BRUIE project, believe that these lunar oceans, including Saturn’s moon Enceladus, may be ideal places to look for life in our solar system. However, they’ll first need a tough aquatic explorer capable of navigating solo through an alien ocean locked under ice sheets that could be 6 to 12 miles thick.
The ice shells covering these distant oceans serve as a window into the oceans below, and the chemistry of the ice could help feed life within those oceans. Here on Earth, the ice covering our polar oceans serves a similar role, and our team is particularly interested in what is happening where the water meets the ice,” said Hand.