NASA tests robotics and laser-powered drills for Europa mission

Posted Jul 28, 2014 by Walter McDaniel
Jupiter's icy moon Europa is the next target for some NASA scientists. Scientists are testing a robot equipped with a drill powered by laser energy carried through a fiber-optic wire.
Europa has a unique composition of ice that intrigues scientists.
Europa has a unique composition of ice that intrigues scientists.
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
Reports from New Scientist detail current experiments which saw the VALKYRIE robot tunnel into the ice. Shaped like a cigar, it has a compact form compared to some robotics which is perfect for digging straight down. Theoretically scientists will one day use a model similar to this on Europa.
VALKYRIE itself has a drill on the front which can cut through sheets of ice which scientists believe cover the surface of Europa. An incredibly thin wire follows the robot down and carries the energy of a laser into the main body. Scientists are unsure how deeply they will have to dig to find samples of life or new materials so they are going for as much distance as possible.
Some confusion has arisen over the name due to the fact that they already had a humanoid robot. NASA's earlier Valkyrie project had nearly the same name for an earlier "Superhero Robot."
Scientists have a keen interest in this because Europa has an icy atmosphere and underground ocean which could contain life. In order to complete this goal scientists with NASA have tested what they call "cryobots" for many years. NASA already sent out the Juno probe to test the distance and check conditions so that they can plan another mission.