Soon to come on the icy moons of the solar system will be NASA's brand new robot that hops using steam power on the moon's surface.
One of the space agency's plans is to send the first robotic envoys that will be the first steps to a manned visit. The object of these steam-powered robots is to explore these moons and see if they have life on them, according to Fox News.
Powering the robot with steam is one of the most unique aspects that is being developed, and yes, this will work even in deep space too!
One of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) is working on the development of a robot called SPARROW (Steam Propelled Autonomous Retrieval Robot for Ocean Worlds). To move about on the surface of a planet with icy terrain of the moons of the Jovian giant and Saturn, steam will be used to jump across these terrains. Plus, it is soccer-ball sized too, so it's very handy.
According to Gareth Meirion-Griffith, JPL roboticist and the lead researcher of the concept, Europa, one of Jupiter's moons, will be easy to traverse by this small yet efficient steam-powered robot. He added that parts of the surface might be porous, full of crevasses, and have long ice blades that only forms in high places on earth.
Wheeled robots would have a problem with this terrain, but SPARROW's circular shape and size will give it high maneuverability on such surfaces, according to Knowledia.
In a study published in December 2019, Europa and Enceladus might have life that can be considered native to those habitats. The search for any sort of life in these outer planets is gaining more and more attention from the scientific community.
The search for signs of life in Enceladus
Theoretically, steam-powered SPARROW automates because of the smaller and simpler forms, which is why it would be a good choice in most low gravity environments. These similar conditions might be encountered on Enceladus and Europa, by hopping over the terrain over multiples miles that will have less than agile automatons at a dead stop.
One of the most tantalizing aspects of Enceladus and Europa is the possible existence of oceans, under a thick crustal layer of ice that tooks millions of years to form. Several researchers in 2019 determined that the Saturnian moon 'Enceladus' has an ancient ocean hidden under the ice, and is estimated to be a billion years old, making it one of the places in the solar system to look for probable life.
In 2018, a groundbreaking discovery was made by scientists who have discovered proof that molecules of life are on Enceladus, which is complex organic molecules that exist on Earth as well. It points out that life may exist in the outer solar system, and not just in the inner part of it.
JPL mentioned that the SPARROW concept will need a lander to serve as the home base for the robots. The purpose of the lander is to mine ice and melt it before placing it inside the smaller robots. The ice inside the units will be converted to hot steam, which will then be used to power the robots.
Scientists added that more than one SPARROW will be sent with the lander. Units will operate as a swarm or explore separately over the alien moon.
Another Saturnian moon that might get a visit is Titan. NASA announced in New Frontiers program that it will be called Dragonfly, and it might have life on it as well.