These self-heating robots could find life in alien oceans

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These self-heating robots could find life in alien oceans

NASA scientists who want to study the moon and other faraway places will have a new tool to use: robots that can warm themselves and dig deep beneath cold surfaces, maybe to find oceans that are hidden below.

Plans for these “cryobots,” which were first made at a meeting between NASA and private researchers earlier this year at CalTech, have been released on NASA’s website. The designs show how these cylinder-shaped probes can drill more than a kilometre deep.

NASA has to deal with a number of problems in order to make the crybots a reality.

First, the robots can’t use solar polar like most robotic space technology does. Scientists think they’ll need small nuclear reactors instead, like the ones that drove the Cassini probe that studied Saturn and its moons.

The cryobots will also need a way to heat themselves so they can move through icy areas without damaging their sensitive scientific gear.

Also, the cryobots might need some way to steer themselves around salt and dust spots.

Another issue is how the cryobots can talk to Earth after they burrow themselves into the ground. NASA is thinking about a number of choices. It could give the bots fibre optic cables that link to a transmitter on the surface and follow them as they dig.

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