NASA’s New Snake Robot To Search For Life On Remote Moon

Do you believe in life on other planets? I’m not just talking about little green men, life may take on many different forms, including bacteria and other single-celled organisms.

If you do feel that is a possibility, you are not alone. Even some of the smartest scientists at NASA feel it is a possibility. In fact, they believe it to the extent that they are building a robot to go look for life.

Photo: Flickr/NASA Goddard Space Flight Center License: CC BY 2.0

At the California Institute of Technology is the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), owned and operated by NASA. They were working on a robot that has snake-like qualities to search a distant moon for life under the ice.

The JPL developed the “Exobiology Extant Life Surveyor” robot, nicknamed EELS, for that mission. The segmented robot was designed to access areas that otherwise would have been inaccessible.

Imagine EELS on a frozen moon circling Saturn. It would slither along the surface of that frozen world and work its way into the interior through cracks in the ice and other openings. Once inside the ice sheet, it could explore the vast ocean environment, looking for signs of life and evidence of hospitable areas.

Photo: Flickr/NASA Goddard Space Flight Center License: CC BY 2.0

The JPL website goes deeper into how the robot works. They describe it as a “self-propelled robot and made of multiple, identical, segments containing both the actuation and propulsion mechanisms as well as the power and communication electronics to drive them.”

They also spoke about the rotating propulsion units, gripping mechanisms, and propeller units that help EELS to move underwater.

EELS is not yet ready for its mission to Enceladus, one of the 83 known moons of Saturn. This moon was selected after the Cassini Spacecraft sent back data showing a liquid ocean was under the icy surface.

Photo: YouTube/Masahiro Ono

NASA spoke of plumes that erupt from the surface of the ice. Not only does this indicate the possibility of a liquid ocean, but those plumes could also provide access for EELS to enter the water.

Although they admit that much of the conditions on Enceladus are hypothesized, they are doing what they can to make EELS adaptable for any challenges it may face.

EELS may also be used on other planets, including on Mars’ polar ice caps or it could be used here on Earth to explore glacier crevices.

This video shows more about EELS and what it can do:

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