NASA has a surprise for everyone who wants to see the presence of aliens out there. The icy moons of Europa and Enceladus get approval to enter NASA’s Innovative Advanced Concepts Program (NIAC). Final selections for Phase II NIAC funding will come out by next spring.
NASA seems pleased with the potential that the SPARROW (Steam Propelled Autonomous Retrieval Robot for Ocean Worlds) concept has shown. SPARROW will use steam propulsion to one day make giant leaps over some of the most hazardous terrains known (and unknown) in the solar system, reports NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). The probe will use thrusters, avionics, and instruments encased in a protective spherical cage to hop from one terrain to the next using very short thrusts, says NASA. NASA is currently busy finding alien life in Jupiter.
This is one of the most fun things about covering he robot news beat for JPL: I get to see some super-early NASA concepts that have just started out. And SPARROW has a very steampunk vibe… literally! https://t.co/FnvO7B8Eii
— Ian J. O'Neill (@astroengine) June 24, 2020
NASA builds SPARROW to find aliens in Europa
The moon’s surface is complex and porous, maybe even riddled with crevasses and/or meters-high penitentes. The long blades of ice known to form at high latitudes on Earth will stop most robots in their tracks says JPL. But SPARROW will be ready for anything and thus eliminates the need for pre-launch information regarding these weird moons’ surface topography.
SPARROW will collect and heat ice inside its engines, creating bursts of steam to give a boost off the surface. When low on fuel, the hopping bot would return to the lander for more, also dropping off any scientific samples for further analysis, says the agency. This makes the vehicle self-sustainable and gives it enough power to explore the terrain of Europa.
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Suryapratim Ray is an engineer, author, robotics hobbyist, and an active Quoran. Being a technical blogger, he covers the good, bad, and ugly of science on a regular basis at Sciencenews18. In addition to his passion for writing, he’s equally keen on learning classical music.