Nuclear drill will help to find out if there is life on Jupiter
Employees of the University of Illinois offered their own version of the nuclear tunnel drill to study the moon of Jupiter – Europa. Frozen satellite is interesting for scientists from around the world, because some believe that under the crust of ice big ocean splashes, where living beings can inhabit. But Europa is difficult to research just because of the dense surface, which, although it is an excellent protection against radiation, does not allow scientists to study what is in the depths, and whether there is life on Jupiter in the end.
Scientists are convinced that it is possible to use special probes with the necessary installations that would break through the ice layer. This view is shared by Andrew Dombard from the University of Illinois. His colleagues collaborate with NASA, offered their vision of a “tunnelbot” nuclear drill that would cut through the surface of Europa.
It is noteworthy that the concept assumes the presence of a robotic station on the moon at the time of the launch of the “tunnelbot” – it will need to be sent to Jupiter satellite or built on the spot, with a working life of at least three years. What is even more interesting, NASA does not plan to create such an installation. While the public knows only one future mission to the moons of Jupiter – sending the probe into orbit. The proposed Europa Lander module will be able to operate under severe conditions for a maximum of three weeks.
Do we know if there is life on Jupiter?
Even if you do not think about the station, in its concept, the staff of the University of Illinois studied and decided on a huge number of very important nuances.
For example, how to collect samples of dense ice when diving, for the future studies. Dombard said that his team wanted to realize this possibility when penetrating the surface of the satellite. Of course, the process would be much easier if there was melt water in these layers, but scientists can not afford to be so optimistic. Ideally, they would like to fully manage the processof melting of the ice cover to analyze the contained gases.
The second problem is the lack of full knowledge about Europa. For example, no one knows the thickness of the crust. It turns out that it is impossible to calculate the range of the tunnel robot. When developing the concept, 20 km were taken into account, but it is possible that it would be necessary to drill even more.
Also, scientists have come up with a way to transmit the collected data to the Earth – now for this purpose use radio waves, but Dombard believes this approach is ineffective, since the ice can block the signal. His colleagues came up with a system of repeaters, which will fall under the ice with the probe using optical fiber and will be located every 5 km.
In the process of working on proposal Dombard’s team considered two models of the device. In one embodiment, a probe with heating elements on plutonium is used. Its strengths are its simple design and delivery to the satellite. However, this model will have low efficiency.
In the second variant, it is proposed to use a nuclear reactor. It is much more effective, but has its drawback: there will be difficulties in protecting against cosmic radiation. To do this, it is proposed to use melted water, which will come in a special container.
Of course, while this is all a concept that requires significant funding. Such a mission will cost billions of dollars, not yet available.